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The controversial bestseller 

that dares to prove that 

parenthood is dangerous! 






Ellen Peck has spent more than three years re- 
searching, writing and lecturing on the subject of 
The Baby Trap. This breakthrough book examines 
the effects of children on the emotional balances 
of marriage. 

The author of numerous articles on marriage, 
sexuality, ecology, adolescent life (and even on 
child raising) for such magazines as Pageant, 
Cosmopolitan, Teen and Today's Health, she has 
also appeared on countless nationwide television 

Her syndicated young-adult advice column ap- 
pears regularly in fifty top U.S. newspapers. Re- 
cently Mrs. Peck aided in the founding of NON- 
the National Organization for Non-Parents— a new 
movement formed to implement the work of the 
ZPG, Planned Parenthood, and other concerned 
population and environment groups. 

She and her husband — childless by choice - are 
representative of a new life style, based on the 
larger family of the community rather than the nu- 
clear family. They travel extensively, work actively 
with young people's groups and for political 
causes and candidates. 


The Baby Trap 

Ellen Peck 




Copyright © 1971, 1972 by Ellen Peck 

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce 
this book or portions thereof in any form. 

A Pinnocle Book published by special arrangement 
with Bernard Geis Associates, Inc. 

Cover photograph of Ellen Peck by Jim Cox. 

This newly revised and enlarged edition has been completely 
reset in a type face designed for ease of reading. It was 
printed from new plates ond contains the complete text of the 
original, high-priced edition. 

First printing, Moy, 1972. 

Pnnled in the United Stales of America 

PINNACLE BOOKS, 1 Id East 27 Street, New York, N.Y. 10016 

Acknowledgements 1 

1 . In the Time of Your Life, Live ... 9 

2. BabyseH: The Manufacturers' Trap 26 

3. The Media Trap 45 

4. The Cultural "Babies are the Most Important 

Things in Life" Trap 66 

5. The Trap of Your Own Feelings 85 

6. Husbands and Babies 105 

7. What Happens to Girls Who Have Babies? 127 

8. Escaping the Baby Trap: Birth Control and 

Abortion 1 45 

9. Beyond the Baby Trap: Coping with the Culture 169 

10. Jobs, Careers, and a Few Other Things 193 

11. Communicating 218 

12. Lifestyles 239 
Afterword 248 


I would really like to thank Dr. and Mrs. Carl 
Meador of the Center for Studies of the Person, La 
Jolla, California; Mrs. Virginia Satir, San Francisco; 
Dr. T. David Jansen, Dr. Joe Bressler, and Mrs. Betty 
Smith of the American Institute of Family Relations, 
Los Angeles; Dr. Irvin Cushner and Dr. Sanford Wolf 
of Baltimore; the Volunteer Welfare Services of Alle- 
gheny County, Pennsylvania; the Clergy Counseling 
Services of New York and Los Angeles; Mrs. Helen 
Gurley Brown and Cosmopolitan magazine; Mrs. 
Bobbie Anker of the California Abortion Counseling 
Service; the Planned Parenthood offices of New York, 
Washington, and Baltimore; Mrs. Vivian Washington 
of Baltimore; Mrs. Oscar Carlson, Merrill Lynch, 
Pierce, Fenner, & Smith, Baltimore; the Child Welfare 
League of America and the National Council on 
Illegitimacy, New York; Mr. John R. Rague, Execu- 
tive Director, Association for Voluntary Sterilization, 
New York; the Free Clinic of Georgetown; Dr. David 
Shaw, People's Free Clinic, Baltimore; Mr. Stewart 
Ogilvy of the Campaign to Check the Population 
Explosion, New York; Mr. Eugene Coan, Director of 
Political Activity, Zero Population Growth, Los 
Altos, California; the Population Crisis Committee, 
Washington, D.C.; Mr. and Mrs. Lowell Dodge, Wash- 
ington, D. C; Drs. Rustum and Delia Roy, State 
College, Pennsylvania; Mr. Dan Thomas and Mr. 
Mayer Kalichman, Baltimore; Marion Holmes, New 
York; Pat Clarke, Baltimore; Joyce Jensen, San Fran- 
cisco; as well as those lawyers and counselors inter- 
viewed who preferred to remain unmentioned in this 

I'd also like to thank the following couples, from 
among those interviewed, for outstanding help: Jim 
and Nancy Cox; Neil and Alice Bernstein; Larry and 


Ellen Muir; Gail and Paul Blaisdell; Carole Ann and 
Jack Tucker; Barbara and Tony Robson; Susan and 
Clayton Root; Joe and Joyce Raffaelle; Joe and 
Dianne Sullivan; Rex and Diane Roupe; Bob and 
Linda Elkman. 

Most especially, thanks to Mr. Jay Allen, Los 
Angeles; Mr. Nathaniel Branden, Director, Institute of 
Biocentric Psychology, "Los Angeles, and his wife 
Patrecia; Stephanie Mills and Earth Times magazine, 
San Francisco; Mr. Arnold Zerwitz and Mr. Allen 
Spector, Baltimore; and Drs. David and Helene 
Zagier, Hospital Psychiqtrique de Malevoz, Monthey, 



"In the time of your life, live- 
so that in that wondrous time 
you shall not add to the misery and sorrow 
of the world, 

but shall smile to the infinite delight 
and mystery of it." 

From The Time of Your Life by 
William Saroyan 

Near the small French town of Saint-Denis-sur-Loire 
is a certain chateau. It is not particularly distin- 
guished—merely one among many of those collections 
of architectural magnificence that make one imagine 
that a thousand kings must have lived along the Loire 

This chateau was built in the 1100's, "and has been 
in our family since 1340," explained the elderly 
countess, who was standing with us, overlooking a 
moat rich with black fish and green water plants. 
Beyond the moat, their lands sloped down toward the 
Loire. A gardener was picking strawberries. It was not 
too difficult to imagine that this might be, once more 
or still, a day in the 14th century. Of course, the 
physical structure of the buildings had changed; the 
countess was explaining this . . . 

I was listening to a retired French Army officer, 


General de la Ferte, who was talking about Indo- 
china, his friendship with Charles de Gaulle— and 
about hunting. He has a collection of hundreds of 
hunting books, one printed in medieval times and 
giving instructions for the netting of game birds. They 
used to net birds rather than aim at them with 
weapons, he explained. 1 hadn't known that, I said. 

But I was trying to overhear what the countess was 
telling my husband . . . 

There formerly were three drawbridges, not two, 
she was explaining, and another turret— there. A 
building to the far left replaced one destroyed during 
the Napoleonic wars . . . 

With each feudal conflict, and with each modern 
war (the chateau itself had been occupied and dam- 
aged during the Nazi invasion), there had been 
changes, but only to the buildings. The heritage of 
this estate was intact, as was the beauty of the lands. 

And the experience of talking with the Comtesse de 
Beaucorps, whom we had met the previous week in 
Blois, and the chance to meet her other guests, was 
actually a momentary sharing of that heritage. It was 
an experience that we shall treasure for a very long 

Other days were memorable that summer. 

We had chateaubriand and champagne at the Tour 
d'Argent in Paris, then abandoned the Fodor guide in 
favor of the Peck plus Peugeot Plan— i.e., just driving. 
We listened to records in a dusty Dijon cafe and to a 
folk singer in a park by Lake Geneva. We slept for 
several nights in a small, out-of-the-way chalet that 
looked up— and down— at glaciers, mountains, water- 
falls the height of mountains. 

We picnicked on truffle-spiced ham, fruit, brioches, 
and ice-cold champagne by a roadside in the south of 
France. We tasted the black Chambertin wine in a 
cave of the Burgundy country. We toured the oldest 
hospital in the world that still receives patients (the 
nurses still wear medieval dress; though the doctors, I 
think, use modern methods). We saw the Musee 
Picasso at Cap d'Antibes, along the French Riviera. 

The night of our fifth anniversary we were in 

Liechtenstein and the next night in a castle still 
complete with its Louis Quinze furnishings. 

Once, while hiking along a high trail in the Bernese 
Oberland, we exchanged tentative German words 
with a shepherd and shared raclettes with him as we 
watched a sunset so beautiful that it was difficult to 
find any words to say in any language. 

We wandered through the private art galleries of 
several cities: Lucerne, Paris, Geneva, Barbizon. We 
climbed two or three mountains. We met Marc 

And, once we wandered onto a street fair in Berne. 

Just down from the mountains of Switzerland, we 
parked our Peugeot facing the Bernese clock tower. 
"Clock tower," though, fails completely to describe 
what we saw. It more resembled the sun, this clock- 
huge, gold, hypnotic, seeming to sit low, just a story 
above the street, surrounded by the signs of the stars 
and the planets. It was not just a clock that told the 
time of day. It seemed quite as capable of inspiring 
devotion and superstition as the pale, real sun that 
was then setting behind the hills behind the town. 

Flags were waving along the arcaded street— the 
Swiss national flag; the bear that is the symbol of 
Berne; various coats of arms. The street was crowded, 
but there were few cars. It was easy to sense a certain 
timelessness about this scene, too. After all, Bill was 
saying to me, these stone arcades had housed shops 
for perhaps half of European history. 

Groups of young people were approaching the 
street from all directions from as far away as you 
could see: a girl in white; a girl in black; a group of 
boys in sweatshirts; a long-legged blonde in leder- 
hosen; four on motorbikes; an older couple walking 
along, the boy playing a guitar, the girl singing; a girl 
with too much make-up; a girl with too few clothes, 
even for the warm night; two young men with a girl 
in lavender jumpsuit sitting in a semicircle on the 
street . . . 

We walked with the crowd's movement towards a 
square facing the cathedral, carved in intricate stone 
filigree against the sky, as the sounds began. We 


passed a girl on a platform; she was singing, in 
French, "Who has seen the wind?" but her voice was 
lost because not far away, just facing the lighted 
cathedral, a larger platform held a group in Mick 
Jagger sweatshirts and with louder voices. After they 
finished a French rock song, they blasted into 
"Honky Tonk Woman," with words this time in 
German. And Bill went crazy with his camera for a 
long time. 

Then he and I and another couple near us began to 
dance; and the four of us were laughing as we danced, 
ending the number with hands on each others' shoul- 
ders. As the music dissolved into "Satisfaction," we 
walked on, losing touch. It had not mattered that we 
hadn't spoken each others' languages; we had simply 
shared the music that was now growing louder, 
drowning out the voice of a girl in black who 
wandered aimlessly past, carrying something and 
chanting "je t'aime" to no one in particular. There 
was more dancing. 

We walked on, then walked back. "Ah can't get no 
sat-is-fac-tion," another group was singing, this time 
in English. A flat-chested girl with sequined eye 
make-up and shirt unbuttoned to the waist passed us, 
trailed by about five rural-looking boys in work 
shirts. She suddenly turned to one, took his face in 
her hands, kissed him hard, then turned around 
again— and the parade continued. 

There were food stands: sausages, chickens, bread, 
mustard, wine. But no one was around them. There 
seemed to be no need of food, nor of drinking or 
smoking— except for those three sitting on the street, 
who may have been on drugs. But there was no need. 
In this summer air, heavy with flags, the music was 
enough . 

We were back at the cathedral and the clock tower. 
The street lights had come on, and the waving of the 
flags in and out of the light, added a visual dimension 
to the music of another group that had set up under 
an arcade, a group which was now singing, in French, 
"The Twelfth of Never," which it was. Although it 
was the thirteenth of June, or had been that day, it 

was the twelfth of Never that night in Berne as a 
10th-century cathedral looked down on the 20th-cen- 
tury young of its country on those cobbled, throb- 
bing streets, not quite believing what it saw. 

The memory of that night is another that we are 
glad to have. 

And the point is, we have those memories. 

The point is, we were there, Bill and I. That summer 
of 1970, we were sampling things that were going on 
in the world that we might never have known of. 

In the six years we've been married, we have gone 
not only to different countries but to different parts 
of our own country and city, because we want to 
glimpse a little of the world, to see some of the forces 
that have shaped it, are shaping it. 

It is part, I think, of a kind of unspoken theory of 
marriage that we have. Marriage is not to resign from 
living, but to begin to live. Marriage should not signal 
a "settling down," but a waking up. Marriage is rather 
like a growing plant that should be enriched, fed, 
with stimulating experiences from outside sources; if 
it is not, it will shrivel into boredom and routine. We 
have not been bored. 

Yes, you may be saying, all that is fine, but you 
have money. 


But probably no more than you have. 

The first time we went to Europe, our income just 
barely hit the five-figure mark. Bill and I are both 
writers, and writers are seldom rich. We have made, 
though, several significant decisions about money and 
about life that allow us to live the way we do. We 
prefer not to spend money on possessions and status 
gadgetry, but rather on experiences and sensations. 

And we do not have children. 

We do not want children. 

I think that many couples do not want children. 
They want something; perhaps they define that 
"something" as a child. But that may not be what is 
wanted at all. And this fact may become obvious only 
some time after the decision to have children is made, 
after the unparalleled complexities of child-raising 


(truly, no other task is so difficult to do well, in this 
society at least) begin to make their demands on a 
couple, to take their toll from a marriage. Many 
children become "unwanted" long after birth, as their 
parents begin to resent the requirements of parent- 
hood, to regret lost opportunities for freedom and for 
time alone. There are wives who live for the summer 
weeks when the children visit relatives or go to 
summer camp. There are husbands who seek to 
escape the realities of fatherhood by avoiding their 
homes, or who long for the time when their children 
will be grown. There are motels that advertise "The 
family that plays apart stays together" and provide 
separate activities and even separate residences for 
children and parents. And these motels are usually 
booked weeks and months in advance. 

What most couples really want is to live life as fully 
and deeply as possible. That is what we want, any- 
way. And we do not feel that we can do this and still 
raise a family. A family would provide its own kind 
of change and experience, true— but not the kind we 
want. It would be, when you get right down to it, a 
repetition of experience— a repetition of the child- 
hood experience. 

I could never justify it. 

I'm grown up, and I want my life now, thank you. 
My adult life. And I want to live that adult life— di- 
rectly. I don't care to live a second childhood — 

I don't want to learn the alphabet again, and learn 
about creative playthings, toilet training, and play- 
ground etiquette again. I went through that once. We 
all did. Now, I would like some different experiences. 
I want the Riviera in January. And please give me the 
Berne street festivals, and anniversaries in Liechten- 
stein, and the chance to step back six centuries by- 
walking onto the grounds of a castle near Saint-Denis- 

And you cannot count on having those experi- 
ences—we couldn't, anyway-with children. Usually, 
there is a choice to be made. Take your pick. One or 
the other. Housework and children— or the glamour, 


involvement and excitement of a free life. 

Now I'm aware that some are exempt from that 

Sophia Loren is an obvious example; she has a child, 
and her life does not lack glamour and freedom. And 
there's Dr. Helene Zagier, of Monthey, Switzerland, 
whose son graduated from Oxford (with two degrees) 
at age sixteen, and whose daughter is equally tal- 
ented. The Zagiers do not miss much in life. They run 
a university; they hike across glaciers; and they take, I 
believe, more vacations than Bill and 1 do. And 
there's a very pretty blonde named Pamela who 
recently married and became pregnant, after spending 
years alone with an African tribe, wandering alone 
into the South American jungles, exploring the world 
par excellence. 

But this doesn't have very much to do with you or 
me and our men. 

For most of us, the addition of children means the 
subtraction of something else from life. If Bill and I 
had children, we would not have been in Berne, 
Switzerland, the night of June 13, 1970. I would have 
been at home, straightening the dining room and 
changing diapers. Bill would have been picking up the 
kitchen and loading the dishwasher before leaving for 
a neighborhood Cub Scout meeting. 

You see, for most people (certainly for us) simple 
resources like time, energy, and money are limited. 
Bill and I could not be simultaneously involved in 
projects we believe in, personal plans that delight us, 
and still raise children. We have chosen to skip the 
children. And I believe that has been the right 

We have been married, and we've been happy, for 
six years. Any marriage could end, of course; but I 
don't think ours will. There may be better marriages 
around; but I haven't seen many. And, in my opinion, 
the fact that we haven't been burdened with babies 
has quite a lot to do with this success. 

In the course of writing this book, I've talked to 
women of many ages, with children and without. The 
girls I've talked to who don't have children are, 



almost without exception, prettier, more conversa- 
tional, more aware, more alive, more exciting, more 
satisfied. They have, almost without exception, better 
marriages and happier husbands than those wives who 
do have children. 

The fact that I do not intend to mention the 
"exceptions"— the married couples with children who 
are truly happy— is reflective of my personal prej- 
udice. But it is also an attempt to balance the total 
cultural picture you are given. Looking at the over- 
blown, enticing (and misleading) motherhood images 
in the Ladies' Home Journal and elsewhere in the 
culture, I feel no overwhelming obligation to be 
objective. They aren't. Has the Ladies' Home Journal 
ever shown a fat, wrinkled, obviously bitchy mother 
on their cover? No one will deny such mothers exist, 
but do they show them? 

Well, nobody's denying happy families exist either, 
but I'm simply not going to show them. There is little 
point in redundancy. 1 am, instead, going to empha- 
size what is not shown in other sources: the problems 
of having children; and the unique values to the 
childless marriage. 

We who have chosen to be childless all have our 
own reasons. Mine are somewhat different from those 
of Karen Kramer in New York, Diane Roupe of Des 
Moines, Ellen Muir of Seattle, Lila Prager, who lives 
in Houston, and my friend Gail Blaisdell here in 
Baltimore. My reasons are almost totally opposite 
from those of Stephanie Mills of San Francisco. 

The two usual reasons for voluntary childlessness 

1) an awareness of ecology and the problem of 
the population explosion 

2) a desire for wider personal experiences 
Couples usually make their decision for one of 

those reasons, then use the other as a rationalization. 
I, for example, always vaguely felt that children 
would keep me from living the way I want to. Bill 
was in agreement. It was a matter of simple personal 
preference for wider living. But more and more I 
began to draw on the frightening state of the world 


and the facts about the population explosion, in 
order to justify my decision to people. 

It worked the other way for Stephanie Mills, a 
beautiful San Francisco girl whose decision not to 
have children has become something of a cause 
celebre. Stephanie's concern, first expressed in her 
valedictory speech from Mills College, was ecological, 
planetary. ("What kind of world would my children 
face?" she asked in that speech; "A world not very 
clean, not very pretty, not very nice.") Later, she 
rationalized— or realized— "It's very pleasant not to 
have children. You're free to devote yourself to other 
things. Your life is far more completely your own." 

But whatever our reasons, there are many who 
approve our point of view. There are many profes- 
sional people (Eda LeShan, Margaret Mead, Paul 
Ehrlich, Isaac Asimov, to name a few) who believe 
that motherhood should be less encouraged. 

Isaac Asimov made a very interesting statement. 
"Babies are the enemies of the human race," he said 
in 1969, in an interview with Boston magazine. He 
doesn't hate children; it's just that there are too many 
of them. And they grow up to pollute, despoil, 
defoliate, and crowd the earth. 

The earth's population, in fact, may already be so 
large (3.5 billion) that even assuming a slowdown in 
the birth rate, we will have twice as many people in 
thirty years. The scientific consensus is that that 
doubling will bring us to a "crash point," beyond 
which the earth's systems can no longer cleanse 

Think about it. Twice as many people: half as much 
land to grow food for each of us. Twice as many 
people: half as many trees per person to put oxygen 
into the air. Even if life under such circumstances is 
possible at all, it will not be very pleasant. 

Probably you've heard this already. There has been 
some concern bordering on alarm in recent maga- 
zines, for example, and on the 6:30 news. And yet, at 
some point, you're probably going to want to have a 

Why? Because you're a female and the desire to 


reproduce is innately feminine? No. That's strictly a 
myth. In fact, the more you want children, the less 
feminine you may be. Compulsiveness can have a 
point to prove, as in the case of a nymphomaniac 
who is as incapable of staying out of bed as she is of 
enjoying being in it. 

Some would disagree. Some would insist that the 
yen for young is, indeed, instinctive, that the mere 
existence of the means of reproduction creates within 
the woman the desire for children and even imposes a 
kind of obligation to bear children, since not to do so 
would be a denial of a natural function. 

But is there such a thing as an inborn desire to bear 
children? To argue so, since childbearing is the end 
result of sex activity, would be to assume a knowl- 
edge of cause-and-effect that probably did not exist 
in the earliest cultures. There are cultures even today, 
as Ashley Montagu points out, in which the connec- 
tion between intercourse and childbearing is not 
known. And since the one precedes the other, it 
would seem that the basic human desire operating is 
sexual rather than reproductive. Reproduction is 
simply the more or less inevitable result of sexual 
activity. That the reproductive function was accepted 
universally is certain; that it was desired universally 
is less certain. 

Sure, reproduction was "natural," inasmuch as it 
was universal and inevitable. It was obviously in- 
tended by Nature, but by a Nature that never foresaw 
the extent to which Man would pre-empt Her control 
over life and death by weapons, medicine, indus- 

And as our civilizations have advanced, moving 
farther from Nature on the evolutionary trail from 
forests into cities, the need for reproduction has 
certainly lessened. Our society is urban, and it is 
overpopulated. In overpopulated species other than 
the human, Nature responds by depressing the mating 
drive— and the rate of reproduction. But Nature isn't 
working that way for us. Simple but potent cultural 
factors that urge reproduction give Nature no such 


But for girls who can see beyond these surface 
cultural lures, civilized society offers life choices 
other than the option of childbearing. And that is 
how childbearing should be regarded today: as an 
option— and not a very compelling one. 

Childbearing seems compelling for reasons that have 
nothing to do with instinct. The word "instinct" is 
commonly misused. Two examples out of many: 
there are Catholics who "instinctively" genuflect 
when passing an altar, men who "instinctively" rise 
when a woman enters a room. Both practices are 
obviously learned behaviors, strongly reinforced— as 
the desire for offspring is a learned desire, strongly 

In the human being, desire exists in the mind, as do 
the general practices of habit. And, as Ashley Mon- 
tagu demonstrates during the pages of Man in Process, 
the mind is a product of culture. 

If the desire to reproduce resulted from an active, 
operating instinct, no girl would be free from it. (But 
many are— and the number who are no longer consti- 
tutes an insignificant minority.) The desire to bear 
children results instead from learning. Within our 
culture, from earliest baby-girlhood, you learn that 
you should want children. And you learn from many 

Aunt Helen teaches you. She gives you a baby doll, 
saying, "You'll take such good care of her. And 
someday you'll grow up and have your own baby. 
You'll be such a good mother." (Does Aunt Helen 
ever see you playing hopscotch with Johnny, the boy 
next door, and say, "Oh, you get along so well with 
boys! Someday you'll be such a good wife."?) No; 
the emphasis is always on the "mother" role. 

Meanwhile, is Johnny being similarly told and 
taught "Someday you'll be such a good father?" No. 
Thus, far more women than men desire babies. This 
strongly supports the idea that the desire for off- 
spring is learned; babies play a larger part in a 
woman's learned role. 

That cuddly doll is the first bait in the baby trap. 
Later on, as you begin to read, and as you become a 


consumer, there are other lures. 

There are the ads: one glorious Clairol mother, 
many gleaming children; mother in mink cavorting 
through snow with children; mother skillfully apply- 
ing band-aid to her six-year-old's knee; mother and 
daughter doing laundry together with Ivory Snow. 

The baby trap is also the picture feature on Mr. and 
Mrs. Successful New York, with their three or four 
children. It's the trap of the glossy situation TV 
series, where the doll-like mother manages home and 
family with freedom and expertise. It's the trap of 
the magazines, with their incessant articles on the 
"motherhood" theme: 

A Former Governor's Wife: My 'Miracle' Preg- 
nancy at 41 

How Children Can Help Your Marriage 
Special Beauty Section—the Young Mother 
Miracle Babies— Beautiful Parents 

I want to tell you about this trap, not because I see 
babies as the enemies of the human race, really, but 
because I see babies as the enemies of you. 

The people who set the "trap" never tell you what's 
apt to happen to you after that baby is born. They 
never tell you that many men find themselves less 
attracted to their wives after the physical changes of 
pregnancy and childbirth. They never tell you that 
there may be a correlation between fatherhood and 
infidelity. They never tell you that, rather than 
keeping a marriage together, children can often very 
quickly drive it apart. (In the magazines, I found a 
dozen or more case histories of marriages "saved" by 
the birth of a baby. In divorce lawyers' offices in a 
total of four cities, I found more than fifty case 
histories of husbands who had filed for divorce during 
their wives' pregnancies or immediately afterwards.) 
The people who set the trap never tell you that if 
you're not real careful you'll be cheated out of 
fifteen years of young life and intense experiences 
that can never be yours again. 

I don't want you to wake up a dozen years from 

now and realize that your days are built on routine, 
that your life consists of living vicariously through 
your children, that you've lost your zest for new 
experiences— and quite possibly your husband's inter- 
est as well. 

And yet, these are just a few consequences of the 
baby trap. 

I know, because I've seen them happen to friends of 

And it doesn't always take fifteen years to happen. 

It can happen in five years. 

Or one. 

Yes, the media hold up those models of serene and 
gleaming pregnancy. And you, seeing them, imagine 
yourself as a pretty, happy mother-to-be, basking in 
attention and daydreaming of glories to come. 

It doesn't always work that way. 

It didn't with a friend of mine named Frances. She 
seemed more withdrawn and distant everytime I 
dropped by her off-campus apartment between 
classes at Northwestern. "I feel miserable so much of 
the time," she said one morning, as we were having 
coffee on a kitchen table cluttered with shower gifts 
(toys, terry cloth rompers, blankets, bottle warmers, a 
little set of "textures" for the baby to touch, colorful 
mobiles, toddler towels with ducks on them); and 
there didn't seem to be any reason for this malaise 
that her obstetrician could find. 

As I said, "Well, Fran, it will all be over in another 
month; you'll forget about these aches and pains once 
you have the baby," it occurred to me that I wasn't 
really sure if what I was saying was true at all. You 
can forget aches and pains, once they're over, if they 
were only aches and pains. 

But I thought something else was involved. Fran 
seemed depressed, not ill. She just seemed a different 
person from the girl who had sat with Bob in the 
coffee shop every morning, going over his acting 
assignment with him, teasing him about having to 
repeat a scene with Miss Krause, chatting about 
having seen Josh White at the Gate of Horn the night 



(some time later, an obstetrician I interviewed 
explained, "When pregnant women come to me with 
severe physical distress, I often do something close to 
marriage counseling.") 

I wasn't quite wise enough to figure out, at that 
time, that Fran and Bob were having trouble; they 
had been so in love the year before that that possibil- 
ity just didn't occur to me. But I did know that 
something seemed wrong. And I did know 1 didn't 
envy Fran, at all. 

Nor do I envy what has happened to her marriage 
since the birth of their child. 

1 married several years later. And watched not just 
Fran, but all the girls I'd known in school, one by 
one, start their families. I went to lots of showers and 
christenings. And I held a lot of hands as girlfriends 
started to have husband trouble. 

It occurred to me that I wasn't having the problems 
they complained of. And I wondered why. 

I don't think it was because Bill and I were any 
more in love when we got married than, say, Fran and 
Bob were. I think just about everybody is equally 
deeply and totally in love at that point. 

And I don't think I'm any cleverer than my girl- 

I think it's because I haven't burdened the relation- 
ship Bill and I have with third parties who would 
distract our attention from each other and restrict us 
from doing, often, what we feel like doing. 

That idea got some reinforcement from another girl 
1 know. Lori is a friend of mine who lives in Chicago. 
For a while, we were single girls together working in 
the offices of the same insurance company on LaSalle 

Lori is kind of a wild girl. She goes to more parties 
in a month than I did the entire time I was in 
Chicago. She's not exactly gorgeous— well, yes, she is, 
come to think of it. She's bright, blonde, and magnet- 
ic to the point where the girl who had the desk next 
to Lori never would let her husband (who worked in 
the same building) come down to see our offices. 

Lori is thirty and looks eighteen. She's fickle, 

irresponsible, and inclined to fly off to the Azores for 
weekends, not, usually, alone. She dates married men, 
because most of the men she knows are married. 

The last time I saw her I asked if most of the 
married men who took her out had children. Her 
answer was immediate. 

"Are you kidding? All of them. In fact, when they 
pull out the kids' pictures at a cocktail party, I know 
they want to get serious for the evening. Lots of 
times it's an unmistakable signal. Almost code for, 
'Look, I'm married, honey, I won't fool you, but it's 
just because of these kids; my wife means nothing to 

"Sure, it's the guys with kids," she continued; "the 
ones who don't have kids still like their wives." 

The ones who don't have kids still like their wives. 

There are exceptions, I'm sure. But, looking around 
at our acquaintances in Baltimore, the generalization 
seems true. Phil, a friend of ours who has three 
children, doesn't accept our dinner invitations when 
his wife takes the children to visit her parents on the 
Eastern Shore. Phil's busy; he needs to catch up on 
office work while his wife is away. 

A girl I know, a buyer for a downtown department 
store, is part of that "office work." 

But there's another husband who practically waits 
at our house from the time he takes his wife to the 
airport until it's time to meet her plane back. This 
couple has been married for six years. They have no 

And, when I've gone to different cities for TV 
shows or speaking dates, I've found Lori's little 
theory about 1000% right. 

The men I meet who don't have children talk about 
their wives. 

The men who have kids ask me out. 

Well, you probably encourage them," one wife said 

All right. For the sake of argument I'll accept that 
charge for a moment. But it's completely beside the 
point. The world is filled with encouraging females. 
The point is: how does your husband react to them? 


One example, out of many I could give: waiting to 
check into a busy New Orleans hotel a few years 
back, I remember talking to a group of computer 
programmers who were checking out. Most were busy 
comparing notes on the "Loris" they'd dated while 
they were in town. One man wasn't. This man, whose 
name was John Emmons as I recall, talked to me 
instead about his wife. They'd been married ten years 
ago; she was bright and talented, and he showed me 
some pictures of her in community theater produc- 
tions. They had no children. He was eager to get 
home to her; in fact, it was at his insistence that the 
group was taking a night flight back to Houston 
instead of staying over another day. John Emmons 
hadn't gone to Lucky Pierre's to get a girl to take to 
Bourbon Street. He'd gone out— to Preservation Hall 
and a few other places— alone, and called his wife 
afterwards to tell her about it. 

Of course the other men had called home too. One 
of them was laughing heartily about the fact that he'd 
had a girl in his room when he called home to see 
how the kids were. 

Lots of marriage counselors have stated Lori's idea, 
in more sophisticated language. 

"Sure, infidelity can be provoked by children, 
insofar as infidelity can be an attempted escape from 
a marital situation that makes a man feel trapped," 
Virginia Satir told me. And in The Mirages of Marri- 
age by William Lederer and Dr. Don Jackson, I ran 
across a sweeping, startling statement: "We have 
never observed a generally constant collaborative 
union between spouses during the period when they 
were raising children." 

Well, sure, you may say, but they're marriage 
counselors, aren't they? They only see the unhappy 
marriages, the ones that fail. (Ditto for Lori: she's a 
marriage therapist of sorts— dates mainly unhappy 

And yet, there are those husbands; there are those 

Maybe your own case wouldn't work that way. 
Maybe you could go through pregnancy without 


getting pained and depressed. Maybe you wouldn't 
have to deny yourself all the other things in life. 
Maybe your husband wouldn't lose interest in you if 
you had children. Maybe he wouldn't try to date Lori 
at his office or cuddle with me when we happen to be 
on the same flight to Chicago. 

And maybe you could be an exception to the 
Lederer-Jackson experience and have a harmonious 
marriage with children. 


But I wouldn't guarantee it. 

And I think that the way my husband and I are 
living our life is better. In any case, it's worth pausing 
to think it over, isn't it— pausing at least long enough 
to read this book? 




"Enfamil mothers are usually smarter." 
"A cradlette is more than just an infant seat . . 
"Jolly Jumper will amuse your child for hours 
"Get your baby needs from Baby News!" 

Many industries are rooted in the population explo- 
sion: utilities, furniture, clothing. And many of these 
industries see an expanding population as a good 
thing. We're only beginning to see that there can be 
diseconomies to very large-scale production. We're 
only beginning to listen to Emerson Foote, chairman 
of a major New York advertising agency, who quietly 
insists, "Whatever your cause, it's a lost cause without 
population control." The way most producers of 
goods and services still see it, the only profit factor 
that outweighs even a rising level of prosperity is an 
expanding market, an increasing population. 

Thus, businesses and most advertisers cooperate in 
Babysell: presenting idealized mother-baby images in 
order to sell their products. The phenomenon is not 
restricted to toymakers. Baltimore Gas & Electric has 
used mother-and-baby to push such products as auto- 
matic icemakers. One promoter, speaking to business- 
men via Advertising and Sales Promotion magazine, 


offers "thousands of stock baby photos to sell your 
product." Any product. (Write Douglas Mack in Daly 
City, California, if you're interested.) 

But it is, specifically, the makers of baby food, 
baby formulas, baby furniture, toys and trucks, float- 
ees and klatter-balls, lotions and diapers who eagerly 
scan maternity lists at hospitals, on occasion bribe 
gynecologists' receptionists to find out who is expect- 
ing, and wish to see you step into a new role— that of 
mother— in order to keep their profit margins healthy. 
The profits of the klatter-ball companies would be 
gravely threatened if you found something better to 
do with your life. 

"Favorable birth trends" is the way these manufac- 
turers refer to the population explosion. A spec sheet 
on Gerber products, for example, lists annual reve- 
nues of about $200 million for 1969 and looks for 
"favorable birth trends" that would cause that figure 
to rise in the following years. "Sales of baby products 
should be aided by some advance in the birth rate," 
reads a similar Standard & Poors' for Johnson & 

And Associated Baby Services clearly does not care 
much about the population crush— or about you, 
either— so long as you reproduce yourself. This enter- 
prising outfit (including Lullaby Diaper Service, Tidy 
Didy, Nu Dy-Per) had net sales of over $22 million 
last year and is looking forward to an even more 
pregnant profit picture, if you cooperate. 

"Associated Baby Services Hails Birth of More 
Potential Customers," begins an article in an invest- 
or's newswire. "Baby births last year increased for the 
first time since 1960 and a growing number of gals 
will be arriving at marriage age in the Seventies: This 
is good news for Associated Baby Services, Inc., 
which gets 57% of its sales and an even chubbier 80% 
of pre-tax profits from diaper services." 

End of quote. 

Sure. Have a baby. They want you to. That would 
be "good news" for them, and they encourage you 
through magazine ads 'n articles. They've even got a 
magazine of their own called Baby Talk, in which lots 


of makers-of-baby-things advertise. A chattily helpful 
little magazine. Should help you spend lots more than 
the $4.75 weekly you'd have to toss to the Tidy Didy 
route man. 

Let's listen to somebody else talk about you: 

"We believe the toy industry offers attraction for 
growth-minded investors," states another stock re- 
lease. "Domestic toy revenues at the manufacturing 
level rose from $838 million to $2050 million . . . 
more favorable demographics" (that's you, baby!) 
"should provide the base for continued growth . . ." 

An enterprising group called Gift-Pax has an act 
that's hard to follow. They present contributing 
manufacturers' products to a new mother immediate- 
ly after delivery. 

"The moment her baby arrives, Gift-Pax 'brands' 
them for you, for years ahead," boasts Gift-Pax in an 
ad to manufacturers. "Then, there's the timing," the 
ad goes on, "psychologically perfect for making your 
brand impression." 

Now, if I were a new mother and knew about that 
ad, I would feel exactly like a pawn in some profit 
game. But then, relatively few copies of Advertising 
Age float through maternity wards. Baby Talk is 
more apt to be spoken there. 

Photography gets into the act, too. 

"Because young children are the subjects of more 
than half of all the photographs taken, the projected 
increase in births has favorable implications for the 
sale of photographic film," said a stock market 
analyst, speaking at UCLA. (One article gave the 
average figure of $76 as what's spent on photos of a 
family's newborn. A Kodak man said he thought it 
would run "closer to a hundred.") 

And insurance. 

Equitable Life Assurance Society, not too long ago, 
featured a program of insurance "for a family" to 
meet "projected future needs." And, just to make 
sure there's no doubt about what that means, and as a 
come-on to help make those projected future needs 
occur in the near future, an Equitable ad shows a gal 
standing regally, beside a harp (!), one hand protec- 


tively over her expanding stomach. 

Naturally, Equitable would prefer to insure "fam- 
ilies" rather than "couples." Why? Because the premi- 
ums are higher. 

Cosmetics play a role in the Motherhood Come-On, 
too. These products, after all, sell youth. And what 
better way to demonstrate a product's youth poten- 
tial than by showing a user of that product— with 
children? This was the approach of a certain Clairol 
commercial. It began with a lyric guitar strain, and a 

She walks barefoot through the meadow 
Early in the morning . . . oh, she lets her 
Hair down when the sun comes up . . . 

and the camera shows this white-chiffon-coated 
cookie with waist-length Clairol hair. Barefoot, yes. 
Hair down, yes. Floating through the meadow in slow 
motion, and— oh, yes, to let all the mothers know 
that they too can look this way— she is suddenly 
surrounded by gleaming children. (The girl, of course, 
is a model who wouldn't dream of increasing her 
waistline by drinking more than a half glass of apricot 
juice at one time, let alone becoming pregnant.) 

The point is, you see these things advertised (insur- 
ance, cosmetics, cameras, cereal) and you also see 
babies advertised. 

And you may be tempted to imagine yourself in 
those ads. You see yourself standing by that harp in 
that tasteful apartment, serenely pregnant. You pro- 
ject yourself into the Tang commercial that has a 
husband bringing his expectant wife breakfast (well, 
Tang, anyway) in bed. You see the floating Clairol 
figure as the sort of ethereal and unconfined and 
joyful mother you would be. 

It doesn't always work that way. Take that Clairol 
commercial, for instance. Now, just how many moth- 
ers do you know who go skimming over meadows 
with a sense of abandon? 

You may imagine you and your husband drawn 
close around a new baby, working together towards a 


future for the three of you. It just might not be that 
way. Because Babysell is so strong, there's apt to be 
more work, and less future, than you might imagine. 

We haven't even begun to point out the things you 
would, if pregnant, be urged to buy for Baby. 

Baby furniture is a big item, for example. "You 
can't get by for less than five big ones," a salesman 
smiled warmly at me, holding up five fingers. "You 
see, just the crib and bureau will run close to $100. 
Then there's the bassinet, the bathinette, the layette, 
the playpen, the stroller . . ." 

Yes, I suppose you would need most of that . . . 

Magazines and how-to-raise-your-baby books (some 
of which are partially underwritten by manufac- 
turers) fall right in line. Urging you to be a successful 
mother, the author of a book by that name describes 
needed furniture. "Your new baby is tiny," she says, 
"but his furniture is going to be enormous. Besides, 
all too soon, he'll need a high chair, a potty chair, a 
play table . . . and what about the mass of stuff that 
will accumulate this year and next . . . toy chest? . . . 
rocking chair? . . . rocking horse? . . . second crib? . . . 
junior bed?" 

And here are tome suggestions from the Spring, 
1970 Apartment Living: 

"Here are some baby basics to make the going 
great! The dressing table . . . has a thick foam pad 
. . . molded plastic drawers, an attached diaper 
pail, and an added advantage: it slims down to 
half its size when necessary. Priced at $29 from 
Peterson Baby Products. The crib/play yard is 
another good buy for your newest tenant . . . 
Then there's a dual-purpose unit: it quickly heats 
Baby's bottle and shuts off automatically, or it 
turns into a mini-vaporizer with its vaporizer top. 
Priced at $4.25 ... A cradlette is more than 
another infant seat. This one has a position for 
rocking, in addition to adjustable positions every 
ten degrees . . . priced at $10.00 . . ." 


Then there's a "baby dish that heats the food and 
shuts off automatically. The set, including training 
cup, cold dish, and two spoons, is priced at $16 . . ." 

These are supposedly baby basics, remember. 

Now of course babies can be raised without all that. 
Have you ever seen it happen, though? I haven't. I've 
never seen a home where there's a small child without 
seeing roomfuls of toys. Whether from Georg Jensen 
or door-to-door hucksters, the toys are there. Pres- 
sured by the manufacturers, by relatives and neigh- 
bors, by the whole society, really, most people will 
succumb and buy everything, even against their better 
judgment, so as not to get a strange look from a 
neighbor or explain to grandma why Junior is sleep- 
ing in a dresser drawer. And, face it. If a wife has 
identified with the Babysell "image" ads, she's going 
to respond well to the specific ads, in the first place. 
She's going to want that cradlette. 

A Chicago stock broker, in urging Bill to buy Mattel 
stock a few years ago, pointed out that, "Parents 
would sooner quit the golf club or give up dinner 
rather than cut back on toys for the kids; you can't 
lose with this stock. Every parent wants his kid to 
have everything." Of course, there may be another 
factor involved in all the toy buying: maybe mothers 
hope that this will finally be the toy that keeps junior 
occupied, quiet, out of her hair! (A popular line of 
toys includes, "Busy Box," "Busy Bath," "Busy 

And although we'll be talking later about the effects 
children can have on husbands, it might be worth 
pointing out right now that a man can get tired of the 
economic strain caused by all these Ingenious Essen- 
tials the manufacturers dream up for his wife to buy. 

I was finding out about all these baby products in 
magazines, by the way, because, after talking to the 
baby-furniture salesman in a Baltimore department 
store, I decided I'd prefer thumbing through mag- 
azines to wandering through aisles. That way, I 
wouldn't have to dash the presumptions of super- 
eager salespeople. But, in San Francisco some weeks 
later, on my way to Ghirardelli Square, I passed a 


store called Baby News. And I had a notebook in my 
purse. And I thought, "Oh, why not?" 

So I checked it out. 

I was feeling happy to the point of volatility, by the 
way: I'd like to make that very clear. It was early 
May. My husband was flying in and would meet me at 
my hotel within a few hours; we had reservations that 
night at our favorite San Francisco restaurant, the 
Charles on O'Farrell Street; and I was going to buy 
something spectacular to wear. I was open-minded to 
the point of thinking, "Well, maybe I'll see some 
happy parents and kiddies shopping here and blow 
my theory, who knows? How could anyone con- 
ceivably be unhappy living in San Francisco on a day 
like this?" 

The first thing I saw in the store was hanging from 
the ceiling: a metal chain, about six feet long, 
connecting halfway down to a hard rubber bar, which 
was attached in turn to a white metal rod, from 
which were suspended cords, snap-on clamps, and 
pigtail screws which enclosed a huge doll in a harness. 
A little girl was being shown this doll ex machina by 
her mother, and the little girl was crying and saying, 
"Mommy, the baby's hanging, they're hanging the 
baby," and the mother was saying, "No, that's a Jolly 
Jumper, and it's just what Annie needs . . . it's going 
to teach Annie to walk while you and Mommy do the 
housework. . . ." 

Well, I whipped past that little drama to the rack of 
cheery little tennis dresses (about $7.50 each, and 
they were cute) but in front of the rack I heard a 
man asking his wife, "But does she really need this, 
Helen?" and I walked away without hearing the 
answer, because I did not want to hear any husband- 
wife arguments. 

I retreated to the bikini racks. They have bikinis, it 
looked like, for newborns. Oh well, why not? And 
there were bathing caps, shorts and short sets, jackets, 
bibs, rompers, leotards, sandals, desert boots, slipper- 
ette stretch slippers, belts, jewelry and harem paja- 
mas. And a display of "Pemay" clothes with the 


slogan, "Clothes for Infants and Toddlers Designed 
Expressly for Adults." 

And the couple I'd seen at the tennis dresses were 
now at that display, and the man was saying, "But, 
Helen ..." and I backed off from them again, to the 
mobiles of sty ro foam animals, and beyond that, to 
the books, where two mothers, each with a toddler 
and each pregnant, were talking about The Big Gold- 
en Book of Poetry. One mother was saying to the 
other, "It's fun, such fun to read these little poems 
again. Patty made me read 'The Best Game the Fairies 
Play' five times last night . . ." (Was this woman's 
husband looking on indulgently during that time— like 
in the ads?) 

And I kept walking back, to a display of garden 
tools, where a mother was handing her small son a 
plastic lawn mower and saying, "Hey, how'd'ya like 
this, Davey, hmm?" and Davey was starting to fuss, 
and the mother said, "Oh, Davey, you want to be 
able to use these when Daddy does the real gardening, 
don't you?" And Davey took the toy mower and ran 
it straight into a display of toy hoes and then he 
really started to fuss. 

And, leaving that, I found a stairway leading to The 
Hair Fair. Peanuts characters advertised it on posters 
lining the stairs— Lucy saying, "Nobody knows but 
my Hair Fair," and Snoopy suggesting, "Protest 
against the rising tide of homemade haircuts; visit 
Hair Fair." 

I did. It was cutely canopied, red-and-white striped. 
Children were sitting on elephants, horses, and fire 
trucks. Only one child was quiet; she had the same 
bright red hair and freckles as "Helen" of the couple 
I'd seen downstairs. I glanced around, surprised at the 
number of mothers who had their little boys here; 
took in the prices (shampoo and set $4.50); heard the 
lady who runs the place say, "Well, Mrs. Gibbs, I'm 
afraid if he doesn't want to sit on the horse, maybe 
we shouldn't insist . . ." and went back to the 
stairway . 

The music on the main level was being interrupted 


for an announcement. (Do they announce things like 
this all the time?) "Mrs. So-and-so of Texas," a hearty 
voice said, "has just had a child. Mother and baby are 
doing fine. And this is not unusual, except that this is 
her 24th child. Mr. So-and-so, a street contractor, was 
not available for comment." No, I imagine not; he 
must be rather catatonic by now. 

And 1 was in the rear of one aisle, face to face with 
toilet-training needs. I wouldn't have thought there 
were so many. A partial list: 

Dee's Half Pint Portable Urinal for Small Boys 

Wee Wee Travel Urinal for Both Boys and Girls 

Cosco Baby Toilette 

Pottie Stool 

Training Seat 

Little Toidey 

Musical Potty (!) 

Yes, musical potty. When baby "deposits," reward- 
ing music plays. 

How would David Brinkley handle this, if he were 
doing one of his wry closeouts on the subject of Baby 
News? "We are a society," he might say, "that is 
presently contemplating a supersonic transport plane, 
the SST. Its sonic boom will damage children before 
birth, possibly producing heart defects, impaired 
hearing. But there will be some comforts left to them. 
They will have their musical potties." 

I was feeling less euphoric than when I'd come into 
this store. 

I realized just then that another girl was also taking 
notes on these toilet-training needs. She was about 
my age, and we might have looked quite a bit 
alike— except she was just about nine months' preg- 
nant. Also, she was turning the boxes around and 
writing down the prices. I considered doing the same 
thing, then got distracted by another line of thought. 
I looked at her and wondered what the rest of her life 
would be like— and mine. Tonight, I would be meet- 
ing my husband at the St. Francis. And she? A year 
from now, would she be in this store again, pricing 


different items? A year from now, I will, I thought, 
probably be standing somewhere with my note- 
book—but somewhere else. I was getting involved in 
some complicated comparative speculation when a 
salesman in a red-and-white striped jacket came push- 
ing a cart down the aisle. All the salesmen had 
red-and-white striped jackets. This cart, as I recall, 
contained plastic teether rattles filled with edible 
gelatin. They were electronically sealed, with no 
rough edges . . . 

And the salesman was approached by a distraught- 
looking man, whom I'd seen wandering around the 
store for some time, come to think of it. In a barely 
audible voice, and with nervous glances at the other 
girl and me, he asked the salesman for a "a . . . a . . . 
do you have ... a ... a breast pump?" His 
embarrassment had made the last two words shrill. He 
glanced over his shoulder at us again, then the 
salesman led him cheerfully down the aisle. The other 
girl turned back to the toilet needs. I decided I had 
seen enough of Baby News. Brushing past the Happy 
Baby this-and-that's, the infant enema syringes, the 
Orajel and the Hula Coopes and the no-doubt hun- 
dreds of other baby delights I had not yet taken notes 
on, I left the store. 

What was wrong? That man's wife had evidently 
needed a breast pump; he'd gone to buy one for her. 
What was wrong with that, I asked myself. Well, the 
fact that he had seemed so nervous about it— embar- 
rassed would be more the word— that was what was 
wrong with it. He looked like a twelve-year-old boy 
looks when his mother sends him to the drugstore for 
Kotex. And I think Philip Roth has described that 
feeling well. 

I wanted to figure this out. Why does a boy or a 
man feel embarrassed or humiliated at having to buy 
a woman things like Kotex or a breast pump? I 
suppose not all men would be bothered. And a girl I 
knew in college regularly picked up her boyfriend's 
Trojans at the pharmacy. That didn't bother her. 

But then that was Lorraine. And nothing bothered 
her. Besides, Trojans are directly related to sexual 


enjoyment. Mutual sexual enjoyment. Kotex and 
nursing aids are different. They're accoutrements to 
female reproductive physiology. In asking a man to 
get them, is there kind of an implicit subjugation 
involved? Is there? 

A psychologist I'd interviewed the day before, 
Nathaniel Branden, had said, "To the degree that 
aspects of reproduction are overemphasized, aspects 
of sexuality are de-emphasized." Would that man, 
that night, see his wife's breasts as, well, alluring or 

There is no way to tell, of course. But it is possible 
that wife-as-babynurse is not at all the same as 

And the effects of all those other Baby News 
products might also be negative. 

The infant seats, the Strollee playpens, the Busy 
Boxes, and all the other superstuff is presented by the 
superstuff-makers as creating a serene and happily 
playful domestic scene. It doesn't. What actually 
happens when you have a baby and the inevitable 
agglomeration of baby things is quite different: you 
increase your potential for accidents and aggravation; 
you reduce the probability of keeping living areas in 
good order; you might limit personal space. 

Now, that might seem rather irrelevant, and indeed 
might be irrelevant if people existed solely on a plane 
of ideas and were not affected by their surroundings. 
But we are affected by our surroundings, or we would 
vacation as readily in garages as at resorts. And 
day-to-day surroundings are even more important. 

The pattern of stumbling over and falling over a 
variety of toys, on a day-in, day-out basis, can be 
rather persistently demoralizing and can be responsi- 
ble for a lot of minor husband-wife fights. (Onegrad 
student I know is examining accidents in the home, 
speculating that stumbling over Junior's toys is, in a 
sense, deliberate, giving father a chance to "blow off 
steam" at Junior, but in an indirect and "acceptable" 

And just as disordered living conditions can create a 
sense of mild despair ("Helen, for heaven's sake, isn't 


there any place to sit down in this room?") and 
perhaps a strong desire to escape, diminished personal 
space can be oppressive and can breed emotional 

Perhaps more seriously, when you acquire all those 
playthings for baby, you shift material emphasis from 
things that provide direct enjoyment for you and 
your husband to things that provide only vicarious 
participation in baby's babyhood. The shift from 
things man and wife enjoy to baby-centered items is 
quite clear if we recall a few of the things at Baby 

Or if we glance at the offerings in a typical Parents 
magazine: a Dresdenite, chinalike finish for baby's 
precious shoes; "little doodits"; musical tooth- 
brushes; and something called a thermo-spoon. 
(That's one with a thermometer built into the handle, 
to tell when the food is just the right temperature.) 

All sorts of cutesy things, just the sort that can 
ultimately demoralize a man who walks into roomfuls 
of the stuff. Interestingly enough, turning the page of 
that March, 1970 Parents magazine from the men- 
tioned slew of ads, we find a column called "Books 
for Parents." 

Three, and only three, books were listed: 

1) Compatible Divorce 

2) The Divorced Mother 

3) Explaining Divorce to Children 

You know, I think perhaps / could explain some 
divorces rather simply. Dad may simply have gotten 
fed up with all those Dresdenite-finished shoes, mini- 
vaporizers, cradlettes, musical floatees. Busy Boxes 
and littld doodits, and decided he wanted a dark- 
beamed oak den, black leather sofa, fake zebra throw, 
a bar, and a woman. 

Well, that's immature, you say, and that's selfish. 

I think it's quite mature behavior. Being mature 
assumes a certain amount of personal power, and the 
right to decide in what way that power will be 
exercised. And selfishness, in the sense of being aware 


of, and proud of, the self, is certainly a factor in a 
balanced personality. It's the weak personalities that 
completely resign themselves to the role of consumer 
of child-centered gee-gaws who are in trouble. Being 
aware of one's own adult sensuality, personality, and 
material preferences is good. 

And while I'm not a materialist in the extreme 
sense, I think that a great piece of furniture detracts 
not one whit from an intelligent conversation. I think 
that a really fine wine goes very well with good 
thoughts. Life is after all built on the tangible as well 
as the intangible— on material things as well as ab- 
stract thoughts and feelings. In balance, the material 
things enrich one's sense of the abstract and play a 
certain role in defining for a person his concept of 

Now, when a man is denied the chance to meet the 
material things of his preference from the vast pano- 
rama of material things offered by this material soci- 
ety, he is denied one avenue of expression of self. 
This is not news, really. Women "express" themselves 
through decoration of homes, men "express" their 
personality in their choice of a slick Fiat or sedate 
Mercedes; all people "express" themselves through 
their choice of books, films, food, clothing. Besides 
being an avenue of self-expression, spending can bring 
direct enjoyment in terms of sensation, esthetics, or 

What happens if most of the spending money is 
pre-empted for baby's things? To the extent that this 
happens, an adult's material experience can become 
vicarious and unsatisfying. 

Much of human experience is vicarious, of course. 
(When you see a play, you participate vicariously 
with the characters on stage. Your husband's pleasure 
in bringing you a gift is partly vicarious; he shares 
your pleasure.) But to experience the things of 
childhood vicariously might constitute, in a life lack- 
ing in alternate interests, a regression. It might not 
seem, on a conscious level, to be negative or unsatis- 
fying. But it might not be positive experiential 
growth, either. What can happen to parents who 


spend evening after evening watching Junior play 
with his toys? In ten years, those parents may be at a 
sensitivity-training session, trying to rediscover what 
they lost, sensually, on the living-room floor, as they 
gradually taught themselves that their day-to-day 
enjoyments were available chiefly through Junior. 

It's all to the benefit of certain manufacturers, of 
course. Though, since almost no manufacturers are 
concerned with the effects of their products, we 
shouldn't expect the toy companies to worry about 
how their playthings will affect the interpersonal 
balance of a marriage. 

But once in a while responding to Babysell can 
affect larger balances, too. For example, in the May 
1, 1970, Life magazine, International Paper Company 
had a two-page ad. One page showed a closeup of a 
pink baby. That was on the left. 

Seeing that, we were supposed to accept whatever 
was said in the copy, to the right of the picture. And 
the copy read something like this: 

"Tomorrow's baby . . . everything the baby 
wears or touches— virtually the entire environment 
in which he lives— can be disposable. Why do we 
' need a disposable environment? Consider this: in 
the first five years of his life, a baby will outgrow 
everything you buy him. He'll outgrow his bed 
three times, and his clothing up to eight times . . . 
Take clothes, for example. A baby's wardrobe can 
start with our Flushabye diapers . . . And that's 
really just the start. International Paper can be 
made into just about everything else a baby will 
touch or wear. Sheets, pillowcases, blankets, 
shirts, sleepers, training pants ..." 

The ad then mentions that diaper rash may be. 
eliminated, since nothing will ever touch baby's skin 
twice. Then it goes on: 

"The idea of a disposable environment includes 
furniture, too ... we plan to make nursery 
furniture ..." 


And here's the real pitch: 

"And by the time baby grows up, there's a good 
chance he may be moving into an entire paper 
world. Curtains, carpets, furniture . . ." 

And all disposable. 

Today the Flushabye diaper. Tomorrow the Flush- 
abye world. 

Let's see just what we've accepted, if we've gone 
along with this disposables-are-good-for-baby reason- 
ing. We have accepted that all of these sheets, sleep- 
ers, nursery furniture, et cetera, will be made from 
paper: that is, trees. Since International Paper intends 
this stuff to be discarded periodically, we're talking 
about a lot of trees. (Baby never has diaper rash. Of 
course, he may never see a forest either.) 

And meanwhile, we have all lost a bit of the world 
around us, if we accept this particular example of 
Babysell. We have subjected our adult human possi- 
bilities for enjoyment of the world to a baby's 
supposed need for Flushabye environments. 

The International Paper ad ignores that basic truth 
and glosses over the rather frightening implications of 
disposable environments with a simplistic "But baby 
won't have diaper rash" approach. This is a different 
phase of Babysell. Before a woman becomes preg- 
nant, the images imply, "Wouldn't this be nice?" 
After she becomes a mother, ads such as the Inter- 
national Paper one imply, "Baby is all that's impor- 
tant," and do not invite her to think beyond that. 

When you do think beyond that, though, you see 
that in giving to baby, you can deprive yourself, 
perhaps seriously. Of what might you be deprived? I 
have some rather complicated answers in my notes; 
one psychologist spoke in terms of "sensory and 
experiential deprivation" and of its effects. I think a 
somewhat clearer answer might be found in my casual 
encounter with a couple named Al and Ginger. 

After I left the Baby News store in San Francisco, I 
went to get a cup of coffee someplace upstairs in the 
Cannery, a few blocks away. The coffee shop was 


crowded, and I finally asked a young couple if I could 
sit at their table. They moved about a half a ton of 
packages and said sure. 

You just have to ask about that many packages. 
"Some things for our beach house— like bikinis for 
Gen," the man, who at second glance was not so 
young after all, explained. 

They talked. I opened my notebook and put ques- 
tion marks and asterisks and stuff all over my Baby 
News notes. As I was finishing my coffee, I asked 
them where their beach house was. 

"Malibu," the man said, rather expansively, "thanks 
to her." 

"Hey, you made the money, Al, most of it. I just 
held off from spending anything, that's all." 

"We were always saying, even before we got mar- 
ried, that we wanted a beach house. I really thought 
it was all talk; how were we going to— I mean, there 
are managers at the plant where I work who couldn't 
—but Gen's attitude was that for one year we were 
going to save everything we made; and if we saved 
everything, we could afford anything. And after 
about a year, year and a half, we had, well, a hell of a 
lot of money. We bought a little bit of stock, because 
-I'm not sure I trust it— the market, that is . . ." 

"Have you ever asked a stock broker for 5 shares of 
stock?" Ginger asked. 

"Yes," I said, and we laughed. 

"So, Al liked Malibu a lot, and we looked around 
for a couple of summers, found a place we liked , . ." 

"Well, we're spending money now. Well, actually, 
not so much at that. Al made most of the furniture— 
from used wood as a matter of fact— and we re- 
finished what we had before. These things are just 
crazy extras: lots of posters, candles, a bean-bag 
chair, things for the bar, and— hey, you have a picture 
of the place, don't you, Al?" 

Actually, it looked like the sort of place Bill and I 
want: a simple A-frame, a deck facing the ocean. Our 
beach, though, is on the other side of the continent, 
in North Carolina. And so far, when we go there, we 
sleep in sleeping bags. 


"... have to drive all the things down there next 
weekend and do a lot of work; we're having friends 
there over Memorial Day. It's a 'bring your own food' 
deal, though. I don't want Gen to have to do cooking 
and moving in at the same time." 

"Have I told you five times, or ten, I wouldn't 

"Nope. You're spending as little time as possible in 
that kitchen . . ." 

She leaned over toward him, laughing. I couldn't 
hear what she said . . . 

I pushed the coffee cup away. I was never going to 
get my shopping done this afternoon; it was 4:30 
now. Oh, well, Bill liked the gold knit I had at the 

"How long have you been married?" I asked them. 
Five years, they said. And, feeling like all the busy- 
noses who are always asking me the same thing, I 
asked, with some hesitation, "Do you have any 

Their "no" was vehement. 

All that week, I'd been talking to lawyers and 
marriage counselors about the weighty burdens of 
parenthood and conflicts precipitated by children. I 
somehow felt like reciting it all to them so they'd 
know how right they were. But then, they seemed to 
know, anyway. So I didn't bother. Instead, I just said, 
"My husband and I don't either." 

Ginger laughed again and said, "Isn't it wonderful? 
You know, whenever we visit friends with children, I 
enjoy the children— I really do— but we are so glad to 

"We're enough for each other," she added. 

And I'm sure they were. 

And I'm sure there was a difference in the way they 
felt about each other, in contrast to, say, the way the 
couples at Baby News felt about each other. For one 
thing, Al and Ginger were together that afternoon. 
Most of the toddlers at Baby News had been with one 
parent (mother), not both. For another thing, Al and 
Ginger seemed to have a material satisfaction that not 
everybody who indulges in money-spending gets. 

They had what they wanted; perhaps it's as simple as 
that. "Lying out there on the deck," Al had said, 
"listening to that ocean, knowing that part of it's 
mine is the greatest feeling in the world." 

How many other men might feel the same way, 
might prefer a bit of -ocean to, say, a camper? 

Now, I know that you can take that general argu- 
ment and turn it into a number of specifics that 
sound very selfish. Am I saying, for example, that a 
man would be better off to experience the taste of 
good Scotch instead of buying baby food? Or that 
the man who bought the breast pump would have 
been happier buying a set of golf balls? 

There are no answers to these questions, because 
what's at issue can't be reduced to specifics so easily. 

And, I'm aware that I seem to be substituting one 
brand of materialistic consumption for another, and 
in effect saying, "If you don't get trapped into 
buying playpens and tricycles, you can get great 
modern furniture." That's not quite it. What I'm 
really trying to say is that without children you have 
more choice about material spending. And this can 
lead to an assessment of life's possibilities in more 
total ways. Right now, Al and Ginger are going 
through a phase of materialism, true. Most couples 
do. But if they've indulged themselves, they can 
abandon this phase easily when they feel they want 
to. A child's material "needs" are continuous, and, 
believe it or not, a couple can face censure if they 
don't buy the trainer bike or the Bass Weejuns. 

And we should note that, along with their material- 
ism, Al and Ginger are reaching out for new experi- 
ences, a new role. They're stepping out of the 
usual young-blue-collar-worker-and-wife stereotype. 
They've bought a place that some of Al's supervisors 
couldn't afford. That's going to lead to some interest- 
ing insights into people he knows at work. (Some 
will, no doubt, cultivate invitations; others will scoff.) 

And it's going to lead to expanded acquaintances. 
Most of those who have weekend places like Al and 
Ginger's will be different in background. Maybe the 
affluent couple next door will take one look at Al's 


hand-crafter sofa and retreat to their own Vladimir 
Kagan stuff. (Or maybe they'll expand their idea 
about furnishings.) And maybe Al and Ginger will 
find themselves irreconcilably opposed politically to 
the SDS types who have the cottage down the beach 
in the other direction. And, if so, who knows? Maybe 
they'll begin to dislike this entire milieu they've put 
themselves into. (Or maybe they'll change their atti- 
tudes—or cause other people to change theirs— and 
find the changes interesting.) 

And that's the real point: whatever happens, Al and 
Ginger will be free to choose and free to change. And 
those two freedoms can get pretty limited when your 
life is circumscribed by Busy Boxes and Mattel 

Think about this the next time you see an elaborate 
ad by a "baby" profiteer. Of course somebody is 
going to be profiting from your money, and mine. 
But I'd rather it be a travel agent than a talcum- 
powder magnate; a pre-fab beach house company 
than an institution specializing in row-house mort- 
gages; a flower-seller than a diaper service. I'd rather 
hear ocean surf on an A-frame deck than Busy Boxes 
clattering in a cluttered kitchen. 

I suspect that you might, too. 

You might consider giving yourself that choice. 




Eddie Albert interviews a typical housewife in a 
TV commercial. She has one child with her, but 
explains, "I've got eleven more at home." "That's 
wonderful" Eddie Albert responds. 

"I think children are definitely the most fulfilling 
thing for a woman . . ." 

—Actress on the David Frost Show 

Both in response to the manufacturers' advertising 
dollars and due to the deeply encultured ideal of 
nimily life, the media have built up a "motherhood" 
mystique that at times verges on the hysterical. 

Motherhood is continually associated with a mysti- 
cal "fulfillment" (mystical because, since this fulfill- 
ment usually does not exist, it must be described in 
vague ways). And, through ads and commercials, 
mommies are made to seem not only "fulfilled" but 
glamorous. This can lead, or mislead, many girls who 
might otherwise have been happy and childless into 
having children they later realize they did not want 
and cannot raise. 

Now, of course the media build up misleading ideas 
about everything. All the complications of life, love, 
careers, conflicts, death or disinheritance, find their 
tie-up at the end of thirty minutes. And, if only by 
the implications of the models chosen, the settings 
used, all commercials mislead; it's not just the prod- 
uct pushes based on parenthood. We catch on to this, 


eventually. We learn that: (a) Bisquick has little to do 
with a loving atmosphere in the apartment; (b) Salem 
cigarettes do not create a scene of natural splendor 
around you; (c) toothpaste will not produce ro- 
mance; (d) all of these. 

But the consequences of identifying with the ma- 
ternal models on TV are so long-lasting! By the time 
one catches on to the fact that it's impossible to be 
that slim, witty, alluring girl-mother the Clairol and 
the Grape Nuts ads implied it was possible to be, the 
trap has closed. 

The magazine models are perhaps even worse. On 
TV, things happen fast. The attractive-mother images 
are projected visually, subliminally, quickly. But the 
magazines take their time and spell it out. They make 
of motherhood a science, or perhaps a religion, with 
cults and subcults: to breastfeed or not to breastfeed; 
natural -childbirth, Lamaze method vs. childbirth by 
hypnosis, et cetera. 

Even The New York Times Magazine in one issue 
contemplated the "areola of the lactating breasts" 
and the "anxiety -milk-loss-failure syndrome" in an 
article that seemed to have escaped from McCall's. 

Redbook, Good Housekeeping, Family Circle, Wom- 
an's Day, Life, Look, Time, and even Vogue, all 
concern themselves at times with the expectant moth- 
er's complexion, carriage, nausea, varicose veins, fetal 
movements, size, weight, and emotion; with the 
lubricants of the birth passage and the language of 
cooing. And an evangelistic magazine put out by La 
Leche League International promotes, in a bi-month- 
ly paper, "Good Mothering Through Breastfeeding 
the World Over." (Member mothers take their tots 
and have group breastfeedings.) 

The religious aura surrounding the maternal state 
shows up a lot in the Ladies' Home Journal. Their 
February, 1970 story on Helen Meyner's "miracle" 
pregnancy is adulatory, almost worshipful: 

"Here is the moving story of how she risked her 
health to take an experimental fertility drug . . . 
For years, against the advice of skeptical doctors 

. . . she had taken injections of an experimental 
and dangerous fertility drug. The treatment had 
failed. Helen Meyner could have given up. She felt 
that she had so much of what she wanted in life 
—wonderful husband, nice home, an interesting 
newspaper job, a chance to travel, all the com- 
forts. But she wanted to experience the miracle of 
pregnancy and childbirth so much that she begged 
her doctor to continue the fertility injections . . , 
(This despite the fact that the drug she was taking 
had been known to cause severe or fatal disorders 
of the ovaries and circulatory system.) 

"And now [ Ladies' Home Journal continued tri- 
umphantly] Helen Meyner enters the last month 
of gestation." 

At that point I, a fairly puzzled reader, had a couple 
of questions: one, about the suitability of mother- 
hood for a woman who would become obsessed with 
questionable medical treatments which had proved 
fatal; two, my God! Couldn't she have adopted 

It seemed perverse— obscene— to spend so much 
time, energy and effort to get one's very own zygote 
going ("One morning she drove for hours to see the 
doctor, to ask once more for injections . . .") when 
the world outside is just crying for that attention. 
Surely, in 1969 and early 1970, there was a project of 
the community which could have used her efforts, 
and might have made the world a bit better for all the 
babies already living. (Her husband, Robert Meyner, 
61 and a former governor, being supposedly con- 
cerned for the state of the world, might have ap- 
proved of that. Characteristically, I'm afraid, the 
Ladies' Home Journal did not seem one bit concerned 
with his reactions to all of Helen's hormonal fol- 

Helen Meyner, then, was a media model. She didn't 
just "have a baby," or "become pregnant." She was 
featured in "The Magazine Women Believe In," and 
thus became a national example, convincing people 
by the droves, probably, that pregnancy must be 


pretty groovy, since she risked death to get it. 

Redbook has also presented its versions of Girls 
Who Go to Extremes to Get Pregnant. In an anon- 
ymous story, a Redbook reader told how she con- 
ceived a child by donor insemination: 

"The doctor selects a donor, often a medical 
student or another doctor,' Dr. (X) said. His 
health is carefully checked, and his mental and 
physical characteristics are matched with the hus- 
band's as closely as possible. The donor's identity 
cannot be traced, and you're protected complete- 
ly. On the day of ovulation, you receive the semen 
by injection." 

The woman involved kept a basal temperature chart 
throughout her menstrual cycle, and each day at 
lunchtime went to the doctor's office to have a 
culture taken. One day after checking the vaginal 
smear, Dr. X. announced, "Today's the day," and 
told her to wait about half an hour for the semen to 
arrive. A thought that went through her mind, she 
said, was that while this isn't exactly the way a 
woman envisions conception (and it sure isn't]), if 
this is what was necessary for her to conceive, well, so 
be it. In other words, quite apart from pregnancy 
resulting from an act between her and her husband, 
and in spite of the fact that the doctor had told her 
some husbands later ask for divorce on the grounds of 
donor insemination, she took her husband's word 
that he didn't think this would bother him, so eager 
was she for her own pregnancy . . . 

Lying on the examining table, looking at that 
"small white jar that looked as though it might 
contain face cream," the woman's thoughts, accord- 
ing to this self-written article, were centered on "that 
unknown man who would provide the semen . . ." 

Does that seem like a scene that will further future 
closeness between husband and wife? It is a scene, in 
fact, that again shows just how anti-sexual reproduc- 
tion can be— this time in almost a Brave New World 


"Why are stories like this run?" I asked assistant 
editors at various magazines. "Meeting reader inter- 
est," was the usual reply. Partially, that's nonsense. 
Any magazine recognizes its power to create reader 
interest in new personalities, new lifestyles, new 
writers, new directors, new products. New products. 
Interestingly enough, at one magazine I ended up, in 
pursuing this seemingly editorial question, in the 
office of someone called an "editorial merchandising 

Yes, editorial and merchandising policy do mix. 
Time, last May, revealed that Denver Posr reporters 
were rebelling at being assigned "puff pieces" to 
support ads in the paper. Their situation is certainly 
not unique, though it is less pronounced in news- 
papers than the ladies' magaines. There, such columns 
as "Occupation: Homemaker" demonstrate the maga- 
zines' obsequious attitude toward their advertisers. 
Here's just one paragraph from that column: 

"Manufacturers are always interested in improving 
their products, adding new features all the time, 
to make them more convenient or better to use. 
For example, the cutting-wheel assembly on elec- 
tric can openers has always been difficult to keep 
clean. Now, many can openers have a snap-off 
cutter that can be removed and quickly washed." 

Good grief. Are people really bothered by things 
like that, until the magazines and the manufacturers 
tell them? Do any girls really get upset at that 
stubborn little cutting-wheel assembly? Couldn't any 
girl with a tenth of a brain figure out that the most 
efficient way to open a can is with one of those 29tf 

What is the idea of promoting all that work- 
producing gadgetry? That was my question; and I 
took it to a person whose magazine runs similar 
editorial pushes. 

The idea was, he said candidly, to keep women busy 
in the home, busy with homemaking tools. 

"Well, if you want to keep women in the home, is it 


your idea to promote childbearing as well? Is that 
what's behind the stories that glorify baby-having?" 

"Well, I can't say that," he said, "but figures may 
have been kept a time or two, on how many women 
readers get pregnant each year. Some advertisers are 
impressed by that, since they know these women are 
more apt to stay at home, read the magazine— and the 
ads— more carefully." 

That's what an "editorial merchandising specialist" 
in Chicago told me, anyway. He also said, "Now, if 
I talk to you, I want you to conceal very, very 
carefully the publishing company I work for." So, 
of course, this was not really in Chicago. 

But he did have some other interesting things to 

"So, inasmuch as we're selling domesticity, I guess 
we're selling motherhood. The situation is kind of a 
paradox since no matter how merchandisers try to 
show that being a mom and a homemaker is fascinat- 
ing, it's essentially not. Breeding is not chic, it is not 
fun, it is not glamorous. A psychiatrist, close friend 
of mine, says housewives' alcoholism is increasing like 
crazy. That Friedan book* said the full-time house- 
wife is neurotic. And frankly we've all got indications 
that they're basically right about that. One of our 
competitors just had to run an article about 'I'm Just 
a Housewife Blues,' because there's no denying a 
problem does exist. 

"But the simplest way out of the problem is 
through spending," he continued, in easy self-justifi- 
cation. "I mean, you know the old saw about the 
wife feeling depressed, buying a new hat, and feeling 
better. Well, it's true. Spending money is therapeutic. 
If we can keep her spending, she'll be more satisfied 
with her role. Now, doesn't that make sense?" 

Sure. Consumerism as therapy. Keep women so 

* The Feminine Mystique. His one-sentence sum-up of this book is 
somewhat of an oversimplification, by the way, but not basically 


busy spending money that they'll be too busy to 
question or examine their lives. 


"Inasmuch as we're promoting domesticity, I guess 
we're promoting motherhood . . ." 

They do a good job of it. Like Detroit cars, 
Motherhood is presented in a variety of models, all, 
of course, idealized. Glancing through a batch of 
magazines, I found several distinct types: 

First, there's the Pillar of the Community model. 
She's married to Somebody: president or pediatri- 
cian, copper magnate or Chamber of Commerce 
bulwark. You'll find lots of articles by and about her, 
all centering on "How I Raise My Children." She 
tends to emphasize other things, too, of course: 
projects of the garden and the ghetto. Typically, she 
opens her home to the garden club but not the ghetto 
children; her services to them are restricted to white- 
glove fund raising. She certainly doesn't adopt any of 
these truly needy children. Instead, she and her 
husband are typically genetic narcissists: nothing will 
do but for them to produce their very own straight- 
haired and blue-eyed youngsters, who are given pres- 
tigious names like Moss, Troy, Kerry, Clayman. 

For several reasons, it would be unrealistic to 
identify with her. 

In the first place, she has servants. She need never 
deal with dirty closets, diaper pails, Drano. She does 
valuable, uplifting things. That's why she looks so 
radiant, and that's why the kids look glad to see her. 
She's special— like company that just happens to 
arrive every evening. 

For most mothers I've talked to, such a setup 
doesn't seem reachable. Even if Mom has help for 
cleaning and leaves Junior and Wendy at a day-care 
nursery, she has to come home and fuss with cooking 
the macaroni and cutting meat off that leftover leg of 
lamb, not to mention fixing Junior's junior vegetables 
and seeing to Wendy's change of clothes. Sometimes, 
Dad takes charge of the kids during most of the 


dinner-getting process. But then, communications be- 
tween the living room and the kitchen can snarl, 
resulting in non-discussions like: 

"Bob, what are they doing? Are you keeping an eye 
on them?" 

"Nothing, they're OK." 

"Well, watch that Wendy doesn't pull anything off 
the coffee table." 


"Bob, are you reading the paper!?" 

"Just glancing." 

"Bob, you've got to watch them. Is the balcony 
door open? Do keep an eye on Wendy " 


"Listen, will you see if Wendy's got to go to the 

"You want me to take her?" 

"Well, Bob, either that or you'll have to wash this 
lettuce while I . . ." 

"I'll take her, I'll take her; hey, when's dinner, 

"In just a few minutes. Bob!" 

Naturally, after fifteen minutes of such rattling 
repartee, both husband and wife sit down to dinner 
mildly aggravated. Yes, it is difficult to be a "Pillar of 
the Community" model mother— without servants. 

A second disadvantage to this woman, by the way, 
is that she usually has far too many children. She has 
six. Or eight. Or occasionally more. 

There is no justification for this. Of course, she can 
"afford" it, particularly if her name is Kennedy. But 
the world cannot. As an American Medical Associa- 
tion publication stated last year, 

"Children have long been regarded by parents in 
economic terms. Can we afford to send four 
children to college? Will we find our budget 
pinched with the extra clothing, food, medical 
and dental bills? The man who decides that he can 
have four children in many ways resembles the 
one who has concluded that he can afford three 

automobiles . . . They can afford them; the fact 
that society cannot is (to them) irrelevant." 

That should be obvious. Any couple who produce six 
or eight or more children during a twenty-year, 
super-ultra, child-raising binge is being exceedingly 
selfish, much like the man who blasts away his entire 
paycheck on drinks while his ailing wife starves. The 
Kennedys and other dynasties let the world go hun- 
gry as they consume all of the dwindling resources 
the world has left to offer. 

While on the surface, there seems to be a Tightness 
to the life of the Pillar of the Community mother, her 
inner attitudes are very unthinking, and very wrong. 
Another media model is the Professional Mother. 
She's not so well-known. Her husband is perhaps a 
salesman, perhaps an accountant. She lives in Cedar 
Rapids or Overland Park. 

"I always say if you're going to do something, do it 
right; and if you're going to raise children, then stay 
home and raise them," "A woman's place is in the 
home," and other such pellets of wisdom drop from 
her lips, in articles about homemaking. 
She does not get out of the house. 
She plays with the creative playthings and the Busy 
Boxes, accompanies her tots to hopscotch games and 
the playground, runs with them to the Good Humor 
truck. And after a few years of this, she, too, has a 
mental age of five and a half— and as much sex appeal 
as Betty Crocker. 

Her husband works late on Tuesdays, if he is a 
salesman, and he looks forward to business trips with 
a double incentive: the opportunity for expense- 
account living, plus a bit of expense-account padding 
to help provide for that brood at home, and the 
chance to get away from that brood (and the mother 

The Glamour-Doll motherhood model is a present, 
or former, singer, actress, ballerina, movie star. 

"With a brood of children ranging from six to 
sixteen, she is more a mother than a movie star 


today," begins a syndicated feature on Ann Blyth. An 
interview with former ballerina Moira Shearer empha- 
sizes the "great satisfactions" that she has found in 

And sometimes the glamour mom is a member of 
nobility. Vogue is fond of presenting this type: the 
Marquesa de Something-or-other with her adorable 
blonde children. (The fact that she has children must 
be stressed, of course, to make the Marquesa more 
acceptable to the masses of middle-class American 
mommies, who will then buy her line of cosmetics 
which has just hit the U.S. market.) 

The Marquesa, as posed by a top photographer, is 
absolutely vibrant. Oscar de la Renta gown. Flowing 
hair. Lithe limbs. You can almost sense the smoulder- 
ing female feelings that lie just behind that calm, 
chiseled face as she sips champagne with her husband 
on their chateau lawns. (Meanwhile, the servants are 
taking care of the children's suppers.) 

Only one thing wrong here: how many of us are 
living in a hillside castle and married to, like a 
marquis? Let's not delude ourselves that motherhood 
is like that; let's not identify with her. 

In a rather clever poem, Judith Viorst has pointed 
out the disparity between a Marquesa's life with kids: 
and what ours would be like: 

"Oh somewhere there are lovely little boudoirs 
With Porthault sheets and canopies and whips. 
He lion-hunts in Africa on weekends, 
She measures thirty-three around the hips. 

"There eyes engage across the brandy snifters. 
He runs his fingers through her Kenneth hair. 
The kids are in the other wing with Nanny; 
The sound of violins is everywhere . . ." 

That 's the candid portrait of a Marquesa. 

And here's what it's like for Average American 


"I bring the children one more glass of water. 
I rub the hormone night cream on my face. 
Then after I complete my isometrics 
I greet my husband with a warm embrace. 

A vision in my long-sleeved flannel nightgown, 
And socks (because my feet are always freezing) 
Gulping tranquilizers for my nerve ends, 
And Triaminic tablets for my wheezing. 

And now my rollers clink upon the pillow 
And his toenail scrapes against my skin 
He rises to apply a little chapstick 
I ask him to bring back two Bufferin . . ."* 

That poem, by the way, is called "Sex Is Not So 
Sexy Anymore," and the message, though delivered 
humorously, is pretty clear. 

But to be frank about it, if you have children, even 
all the money of a marquesa may not provide the 
pleasures you might think. I remember an article in 
last June's Mademoiselle magazine. Barbara Gilliam 
had asked various celebrities where they liked to 
vacation, and their replies were a complete catalog of 
the world's delights. Until she got to Joseph Heller. 

"Joseph Heller, author of Catch-22, gets last place 
in the vacation sweepstakes," she wrote. "He and his 
family try a different place each year, because the 
previous year is always a disaster, he says. They've 
been to the mountains, the shore, and Europe. 'The 
kids never stopped complaining the twelve weeks we 
were in Europe . . .' Heller said, T dread the approach 
of summer . . .' " 

Even if you have tons of money, identifying with 
maternity models— even glamorous ones— could be an 
unsatisfying move. You might no longer be able to 
enjoy the experiences that all that money could buy. 

* Reprinted by permission of The World Publishing Company from 
It's Hard to Be Hip over Thirty . . . & Other Tragedies of Married Life 
by Judith Viorst. An NAL book. Copyright ©1968 by Judith Viorst. 


An interesting and rather recent addition to the line 
of motherhood models is the Out-of Wedlock Mother, 
a popular soap-opera and fan-magazine type. 

Mia Farrow is perhaps the best real-life example; 
certainly there were more articles about her matern- 
ity than about Connie Stevens, Joanna Pettet and 
Vanessa Redgrave combined. Photographed while 
pregnant in a shiny, sequined envelope that rather 
flaunted her condition, she may have looked like a 
brave and rebellious girl defying convention. A closer 
look shows an almost classic case of pregnancy 
motivated by insecurity. 

Mia Farrow was evidently never too sure of her 
femininity. A reporter, discussing her adolescence, 
says in a May, 1969 Life magazine: 

"About this time, Mia was asking herself a disturb- 
ing question: why don't boys pay any attention to 
me? She can remember a teen-age dance in the 
Beverly Hills Hotel when she and another girl were 
the classic wallflowers, watching everybody but 
themselves dancing. 'Then a boy walked toward 
us,' Mia recalls, 'I brightened up but he reached 
out and took the other girl onto the dance floor. I 
was the only one left.' " 

She was always intensely bothered by her flat chest. 
(Her real reason for not posing nude, friends say, is 
less a matter of principle than of physique.) 

Vernon Scott, Hollywood reporter for the UPI, has 
said that she is seriously introverted. Thomas Thomp- 
son, another reporter, described her world as "shape- 
less ... a place of surmise ..." She lived, in effect, a 
fantasy. Asked by one reporter what she'd have done 
if she hadn't gone into acting, she replied in male or 
bisexual terms: "chimney sweep . . ." "cowboy . . ." 
"stowaway ..." 

Not surprisingly, Mia Farrow retreated in a number 
of ways from the femininity she was not sure of. She 
cut her hair into a plucked-chicken bob. ("Mythical 
suicide," said Salvador Dali. "If not a symbolic 
suicide, at least a symbolic de-sexing of herself," said 


another source.) She entered a convent in London for 
a while. And, she married a father figure. 

It is not any secret, psychologically, that the girl 
who marries a much older man is avoiding the 
competition for the more virile males her own age 
and seeking instead to re-create the pattern of daddy - 
daughter indulgence of earlier years. 

Mia could handle that. Frank Sinatra was nothing if 
not indulgent. She selected their $300,000 mansion 
and was taken to L.A. discotheques to go dancing 
with "approved" boys her age while "Daddy" 

Later, in her relationship with Andre Previn, she 
seized a chance to project the idea that she was 
feminine, after all. She became pregnant. But the 
dynamics of that pregnancy look like those of com- 
pensation; she was compensating, or making up for, 
the sense of feminine inadequacy she revealed in 
several interviews. But that is her business, just as 
were Helen Meyner's medical minuets; and I am sorry 
to be criticizing them. No matter how questionable 
their motives for pregnancy, my real quarrel is with 
the media (the women's magazines, in the case of 
Helen Meyner; the Hollywood pulps in Mia's case) for 
glorifying their "miracle pregnancy" and "love chil- 
dren" and failing to give any realistic examination of 
their motives. Certainly it is irresponsible journalism, 
given today's population problem, to praise these 
pregnancies without qualification and without ques- 
tion. If some realistic reportorial questions were 
raised, it might be seen that not all pregnancies result 
from healthy or romantic reasons. 

And that might be a valuable lesson. 

The Hippie Mother has a particular sort of appeal. 
She projects several qualities: an earth-mother kind of 
sensuality; defiance of convention; bizarre way of 
dress; nonchalance about responsibility; liberal mor- 
als; and, above all, an emphasis on the natural, the 

Part of this supposed "reality" is a propensity to 
reproduce. The fifteen-couple commune profiled by 
Life magazine in July of 1969 sported nearly that 


many children. But what happens afterwards? Do the 
hippie mothers have successful lives, with children? 

Having rejected status and social conformity, ac- 
cording to one reporter many of the mothers wryly 
concede they've been forced to play the same game in 
the hippie community. 

"We came to the East Village to get away from the 
status thing, but the status thing is here, too," one of 
these mothers told reporter Jurate Kazickas. "You 
have to talk about a certain kind of child rearing . . . 
you just never admit you hit your child. You have to 
nurse your baby all the time, well past eight months. 
You have to give your kid a strange name: Arom, 
Morning Star, Namamanda . . ." 

In other words, the same pressures and tensions that 
beset the straight community hit the hippie mothers, 
too, though the media models for the hippie lifestyle 
of motherhood do not indicate this. 

Nor is much ever said about the fact that a father 
who stays with his hippie girlfriend, once she has had 
a child, is rare. In Ms. Kazickas' interviews, published 
in various newspapers, the phrase "separated from her 
husband" occurred over and over again. 

What attracts a boy to a girl of the new lifestyle is, 
after all, a certain sense of freedom, love of experi- 
ence, and spontaneity. "It's tough to be spontaneous 
when your chick is eight months gone," is the way 
one guy put it. He recently returned to northwest 
Baltimore from new-lifestyle L.A. because, "Christ! It 
was like we were married; what was the point? I've 
got more freedom even here. " 

In Jerry Rubin's book, Do It!, a revolutionary but 
classically beautiful young couple is shown with a 
child. Theirs? "Yes, I think so," Danny Moses, the 
book's editor, told me by phone. 

"Well, how is that working out? Are they happy?" 

"Well, they may be individually," he said, "but 
they're not together. One of them's in Morocco; the 
other's in Berkeley, with the kid . . ." 

Yet each of these models has wide appeal; each 
appeals to a certain type of female. Pillar of the 
Community and Professional Mother find their fol- 


lowing in the suburban girls who tend to use lots of 
Johnson's Wax, chat an hour every time they go to 
the supermarket, have the bridge club and the Cub 
Scouts over, and always know what happened on "As 
the World Turns." 

The Glamour-Doll model? Well, super-attractive, 
super-bright girls who've gone to Goucher or Bryn 
Mawr, know their wines and know who Susan Sontag 
is, smoke slim cigarettes, and surf . . . these tend to 
identify with the marquesa. (A drastic change in their 
super-sleek image typically follows. Oscar de la Renta 
does not design maternity coordinates nor house 

Mia appeals to fifteen-year-old illiterates: the Jane 
Smiths who read the movie magazines in Muskogee, 
Los Gatos, Kansas City, or Lovelyland Park. 

And the Hippie Mother turns on the kids who are 
delighted with any form of rebellion against restraint. 
Unfortunately, what they rebel themselves right into, 
with pregnancy, is more restraint than ever: they 
escape from the freedom they had before, in a rather 
regrettable irony. 

But the stories of all these model mamas do have 
their degree of subtlety. They don't really promise 
that children will make you as happy as these gleeful 
gals supposedly are. They just kind of say, "Well, here 
it is," leaving you to conclude that this is the way to 

There are some stories, though, that seem designed 
to show that a baby introduced into a household can 
work magic on your relationship. Be warned before 
you read this next bit: if anything screams "Trap!" 
it's stuff of this sort: 

"The head of a social service agency in a large city 
cites the case of a youthful marriage that was 
rapidly breaking up. The husband was a graduate 
student in engineering and his wife worked as a 
secretary to support both of them. She secretly 
resented the necessity of supporting a man, and he 
had profound guilt feelings about depending on a 
woman. The social worker recognized that their 


marital difficulties were based on deep-seated 
emotional problems, traceable to their own child- 
hoods, and had almost abandoned hope of pre- 
venting a divorce. She became even more con- 
cerned when one of her field workers reported 
that the young woman was pregnant. To her 
surprise, however, the young couple seemed hap- 
pier than they had ever been when she saw them 
on their next visit to her office. The wife spoke in 
glowing terms about her job, boasting about the 
things they would be able to do for her baby with 
the money she was now saving with their newly 
revised budget. The husband, too, was now en- 
thusiastic about his studies . . ." 

That's from a book called The Expectant Father,* 
and a freelance writer I know is currently working it 
into a ladies' magazine article. But I showed that case 
history to a practicing marriage counselor here in 

"Screwy!" was his opinion. "There are all sort of 
gaps in that— it's a badly taken history, you under- 
stand, not a history at all, really. And there are logic 
gaps that aren't even psychological. What's this 'new- 
ly revised budget' under which they're going to be 
able to buy so much— when they won't have her 
salary anymore? And, if that's accurately quoted by 
the caseworker, with the woman talking of what 'she' 
will be able to do for 'her' baby, that's bad. If she 
continued to work and save most of the money to 
pay for the child's expenses, the husband is going to 
feel ultimately more inadequate and she may insist on 
making spending decisions— if, you see, her attitude is 
accurately reflected by that history . . . 

"If that book intends," he continued, "to show that 
complex marital problems, like role identity, can be 
solved by the wife becoming pregnant— and that 
seems to be their implication— then that is so totally 
misleading that the book shouldn't even be circulat- 

* By George Schaeter and Milton Zisowitz, New York: Simon & 
Schuster, 1964. 


ed. So many questionable books are being written, so 
many couples read and try to understand themselves, 
when what they really need is a professional third- 
party perspective, that we've got a lot of corrective 
work to do when the couple finally does come in for 

Another psychologist agreed, in essence. "I get 
really annoyed with couples who have a child to save 
a marriage," she said. "When they come to me, the 
child is usually about three years old, and by that 
time they've destroyed not only each other but the 

Nevertheless, "Baby Saves Marriage" is a rather 
standard fiction formula in the ladies' magazines. The 
March, 1970, Good Housekeeping, for example, tells 
the tale of a girl who's suddenly thrown uptight in 
her fourth year of marriage by the reappearance in 
town of her husband's glamorous former girlfriend. 
But ". . . the prayed-for, unhoped-for miracle hap- 
pened: we were going to have a baby." 

And the story comes out all right. 

Redbook presented a similar short-short last Octo- 
ber. One morning a young wife (worried because 
"Dave and I have so little time to ourselves. Too 
many things get in the way, such as his poker nights 
and his extracurricular school duties . . .") cries over a 
TV show and then drives to the doctor's office to 
learn that she is pregnant. On the way home, she 
croons things to herself like, 'Mother and Father and 
Baby," and "Mommy and Daddy and Baby." Her 
happy concluding thought is, "T see that I need a 
baby to love, a baby around all the time." (Right; 
because her husband isn't going to be.) 

It seems to me unfair that the ladies' magazines 
project pregnancy and maternity as essentially blissful 
states, and ignore all indications to the contrary. 

Children can cause serious crises within a marriage. 
Children can precipitate divorce. Children can make a 
man feel trapped. Children can turn a very nice girl 
into a frustrated nag. (A rather beautiful friend of 
mine, for instance, has two children. She also has 
ulcers, colitis, hypertension headaches, a husband i 


who avoids her, and a hatred of existence in general.) 

These are real possibilities. But I've never seen any 
of these real possibilities worked out in a magazine or 
a television series. The destruction of a marriage due 
to tensions caused by children? No. These scenes are 
restricted to reality. There they occur with some 
frequency: in the marriage counselors' offices; in the 
divorce courts. 

On TV, we're shown only cutesy, knee-scraping 
situations, an eighty -second, half-convincing tirade by 
Father when bubble gum gets into his tobacco, a 
doll-mom who rolls her eyes and resolves it all. 

On these TV series, children are pandered to. Often, 
though, the adult lives are fractured. How many 
shows have featured kids plus one parent? Why? Oh, 
a TV exec carefully explained to me that this was just 
to perk up a romantic interest on the part of the 

That is no answer. Whole, hale, happy couples with 
kids (if that's what's living out there in televisionland) 
would have no need to identify with scenes of a single 
person in a parent role. The crux of the matter is that 
there are lots of fractured families watching that 
screen: women deserted, physically or emotionally, 
by their husbands, palliated by the plastic problems 
in these little TV dreams; husbands living, in fantasy, 
a freedom from their wives . . . 

Yet the TV images continue to glorify children, to 
try to entrap those of us out here who are still free 
and if I seem to be emphasizing only the negative side 
of the picture (and I freely admit that this is the case) 
it is in an attempt to achieve a certain perspective in 
the face of all the overblown media glorification of 
maternity. If I am emphasizing only the problems, it 
is because the media, which should show the prob- 
lems, do not. 

Oh, certain magazines, in columns such as "Can 
This Marriage Be Saved?" sometimes touch on the 
destructive influence of children. Unfortunately, they 
raise the issue only to avoid it. When there is a 
problem created by children, these columns indicate 
that either the husband or the wife was not "mature" 


enough to meet the "responsibilities" of parenthood. 
Why do they never admit an obvious possibility: that 
the marriage might have been just fine without 

It's too bad there are so few stories and profiles of 
childless couples in the magazines, and on TV. A 
network policy maker explained why: "We want to 
make people feel comfortable with, or superior to, 
that which they watch. We don't want to breed envy. 
We don't want to show all you people traipsing off to 
Europe twice a year and going to Bermuda for a 
weekend— not on a regular basis." 

"But you show Onassis traipsing all over the world, 
and you documented one of Jackie's shopping trips." 

"That's not on a regular basis; and that's different. 
People never expect to do what Onassis does, so it's 
not frustrating. But to see an ordinary couple like 
you and your husband with almost the level of 
freedom you'd expect of an Onassis . . . would make 
viewers frustrated, angry. We could absolutely not 
contemplate a series theme about a childless couple, 
not without some gimmick that removed the situa- 
tion from reality." (Like making the wife a 600- 
year-old remnant from Salem country? That was 
pretty far removed from reality, right? But even that 
didn't work. Samantha had to become a mother 
almost immediately, as though there were something 
too swinging, or even sinful, about her living with her 
husband as just a girlfriend-wife. We have our own 
brand of Puritanism today, I guess, Samantha.) 

But that's too bad, really. A series about a childless 
couple might show a man and wife living, within their 
community, a balanced life of pleasure and achieve- 
ment. (Of course, it might be a mindless comedy, too; 
but let me dream.) It might show the unique sharing 
that begins to occur between a man and a woman 
after the novelty of courtship and early marriage is 
over; it might indicate some of the emotional variety 
that is possible within the man-woman relationship. 

It might tell the fascinating story of how a woman 
keeps a man's interest, emotionally, after he's used to 
her physically. It might show a woman who's a 


sloppy housekeeper but is loved by her husband for 
her qualities of awareness and involvement. It might 
show a wife who's a pure-and-simple sex creature and 
prefers that to a mommie role. It might show a 
completely hedonistic couple out to savor the world, 
and a completely altruistic couple out to save it. 

There are a lot of stories such a series could tell. 

(Are you listening, ABC? Do you read me, CBS and 

Those are real stories I've just skimmed over— the 
stories of people I know, who are far more interesting 
than the consuming maternal types who dwell on 
Channel 2 and in the Ladies Home Journal. 

(Are you there, CondeNast?) 

At least it would be a change; it would provide 
some variety. I'm not asking for all of your shows. 
I'm willing to be reasonable. But I think we, the wives 
without children, could bring some surprises to a TV 
or magazine series. Sorry, most of us don't know 
ninety ways to fix economy meats. But we know how 
to get our husbands to surprise us with dinner 
out— and we know how to carry on a conversation 
during dinner. We know a bit more about art and 
theatre than about floorwax and tomato sauce (which 
isn't a good combination, anyway). We read. We can 
tell one rock group from another. Sometimes we're 
too busy reading or listening to records to button our 
sweaters the right way, but we know Laura Nyro 
from Joni Mitchell and we have time to listen to 
both, with our husbands. We kinda prefer profession- 
al baseball to Little League games; and, yeah, we do 
go to Europe once in a while. Guilty. 

In case you haven't guessed, I think the media 
should be telling a few of our stories. 

We do live in an age of options, now. Life as a wife 
doesn't have to mean drifting into the traditional 
pattern of breeding-plus-house-care. The media peo- 
ple might like to soft-pedal that fact, because their 
biggest advertisers make drudgery products. And the 
same media people throw baby-images at you to give 
you the idea that this is your proper role in life. And 
there you are: trapped in a repetitive behavioral 


repertoire (change the baby; wash the dishes; feed the 
baby; wash the diapers; walk the baby; run the 
errands; change the baby again . . .) that can make 
you old, dull, and bitter. 

It would make some girls old, dull, and bitter 
anyway, because some girls simply do not thrive on 
routine, even such a supposedly blessed one as feed- 
ing a baby every four hours. If you think you would 
blossom in such a role, though, it's understandable. 
As we've been saying, the deck is stacked to make 
you think that way. But at least think beyond the 
babyhood of your baby. The media stories show you, 
typically, the first few years. But there are fifteen or 
twenty years involved. How old would you be when 
that phase of your life is over? What profound 
influence might a child have on those prime years of 
your life is not even hinted at by the media. If you 
really feel that you want the challenge and complex- 
ity of a family, you have to think through the 
implications for yourself. 

And, I would say, you have to think very carefully. 




"The commonest assumption among married peo- 
ple is that they should have children. The next 
most common assumption seems to be that chil- 
dren increase the happiness of a given marriage. 
There is very little evidence to support these 

-Albert Ellis 

"Sometimes we wait too long before we get 
around to questioning our assumptions." 

—Nathaniel Branden 

The media are not manufacturing their maternal 
mythology. They are only exaggerating and idealizing 
it. They are reflecting attitudes of the culture as a 
whole: a culture more concerned with reproducing 
itself than with improving itself; a culture more 
involved with promoting its way of life than with 
examining that way of life; a culture more intent on 
health than on joy; and possibly more preoccupied 
with life insurance than with life itself; ("We are the 
only nation on earth," says comedian Alan King, in a 
not-so-funny routine, "that teaches you you are 


worth more dead than alive,") a culture, in short, 
with some false assumptions. 

The baby trap devolves, ultimately, to something 
within our culture that is deeper than a magazine 
article. Babies are conspicuously displayed every- 
where. What is the effect of this display? Interference 
with the emergence of legitimate life-value systems. 
And distorted perspective as to the world and our 
place in it. To the extent that babies are emphasized, 
adults are de-emphasized. To the extent that a wom- 
an is regarded as a means to an end (propagating the 
species) she is not seen as beautiful, vibrant, valuable, 
in and of herself. To the extent that a man is seen as a 
mere provider, he may be seen as less of a person. 

At first thought, it would probably seem that a 
man's value as a provider, and his worth as a person, 
would rise simultaneously. Some would even say 
there's a correlation between paternity and career 
success, since so many men would not achieve wealth 
and success if there were no financial pressure to do 
so. And sometimes, indeed, this is the case. And 
sometimes, provided the man finds career success 
within a field he believes in, the total effects can be 
good. A man, for example, who was rather drifting 
along in a boring editorial job with a small magazine, 
suddenly realized, after the birth of his daughter eight 
years ago, that he had to make more money. He took 
hold— made some brazen editorial suggestions that 
boldly channeled the magazine into a new direction. 
He's now chief editor of that magazine and finds the 
new job stimulating as well as economically reward- 

But let's look at another case. 

A salesman for Rolaids antacid tablets and liquid 
has three children and two mortgages, and does he 
hustle! He studies product spec sheets religiously and 
revises his sales pitch relentlessly. He learns to exhibit 
a compelling belief in his product, becomes adept at 
the expense -account lunch that will soften a client, 
follows up by phone between sales calls to suggest 
new retail marketing strategies that will increase sales 
further— and becomes sales trainer for his branch 


office. And maybe he wouldn't have gotten that 
promotion, if he hadn't had the kids. But he did have 
the kids; so he did push; and he did get that 


Or is it? 

Maybe without the pressure to raise his achieve- 
ment—and salary— he'd have gotten a notion to grab 
his wife one day and say, "Hey! We're going to the 
Canadian wilderness for a year. What d'you think 
about that?" And they might have. And he might 
have been happier. He never had that choice, though, 
to make for himself. 

(And neither did the editor.) 

And major decisions about what you'll do with 
your life should be made in terms of your self, 
shouldn't they? If a career goal is worth achieving, it 
should be worth achieving for the self, shouldn't it, in 
terms of developed abilities and increased self-worth? 
If, without the pressure of necessity, a man would 
not achieve that goal, then maybe the goal is better 
left alone. 

In the case of the Rolaids salesman, what abilities 
have really been developed? A Dale Carnegie glibness? 
A skill at sales manipulation? A finesse with "'closing 
techniques?" Do these abilities really play a role in 
increasing a man's feelings of self-worth? Or do they 
just make a man a more efficient wage producer? 

We will admit, I think, that harm can be done in the 
name of wages and profits. For reasons of profits, 
American automakers make autos that become obso- 
lete in three years; bicycles and furniture change 
shape just about that often; style changes in clothing 
are dictated seasonally; and soap corporations race 
each other to seduce buyers with additional enzymes. 
(Rolaids take care of the acid stomachs produced by 
all of this, I guess.) Now you know the results of all 
of this, don't you? Have you ever seen an auto 
graveyard? Or a foamy-sewery river? 

Now maybe, just maybe, if the original entrepre- 
neurs who founded the soap, furniture, auto and dry 
goods companies in question hadn't been so com- 


pelled to support their children (or empire-build for 
them) a few of them might have taken off to the 
North Woods, too. Maybe they wouldn't have gotten 
together to define "conspicuous consumption." May- 
be the whole country would be better off. 

As it is, though, everybody works for children; 
everybody accepts that the purpose of adults is to 
serve children, that if something is good for children, 
we will ask no questions of its effects on us. 

In the International Paper Company ad described 
earlier, for example, we were urged to inhabit a 
"disposable environment." A disposable environment 
made from trees. What we'd really be disposing of is a 
large chunk of Nature and the world. 

I've said that babies interfere with valid value 
systems. When that ad ran, a legitimate value system 
was beginning to show signs of life. A few people, 
including me, learned the word ecology. Earth Times 
began publishing in San Francisco. Robert Ardrey 
and others reminded us that man, if he retains any 
instincts at all, is instinctive in responding to Nature. 
He is comfortable and at ease when in touch with 
beaches, surf, meadows. He fills his foyer with plants 
and must have, if possible, a small replica of a natural 
lake: a swimming pool. 

In the face of this developing awareness of the 
importance of Nature, though, the International Pa- 
per Company showed us a baby and asked us to 
throw it all away. 

Supposedly, we looked at that old-fashioned ex- 
ample of Babysell— we looked at the blue-eyed baby 
in that ad— and suspended critical judgment. The 
disposable environment seemed to be an idea that was 
good for baby. And that was all that mattered. 

There are other examples of distorted values built 
on baby worship, and we see them nearly every time 
we open a magazine: for even when magazines do 
present articles relevant to the real world, they know 
(they know, because they do research and motivation 
studies on most of us) that we must have a mention 
of babies to lure us into exposing ourselves to the 
serious articles. 


In a November, 1969 issue of Look magazine, for 
example, the dangers of DDT were discussed; and it 
was pointed out that most of our water is a dilute 
solution of chlorine and urine. Other problems of the 
environment were presented. Finally, the article men- 
tioned the root cause: "Pursuing any of our problems 
to its source will bring us up against a common 
problem: population." 

But on the cover of that issue is a dirigibilic 
pregnant woman. 

The April 21, 1970, issue of Look is no better. Yes, 
there are articles by Willy Brandt, Paul Ehvlich, 
Stephanie Mills, Margaret Mead, Rene Dubos, and 
Gaylord Nelson. 

On the cover is a baby. 

And Senator Ed Muskie took time, about two years 
ago, to write an article for the Ladies' Home Journal. 
His article, "What Women Can Do About Pollution," 
is not even mentioned on the cover. Instead, "Miracle 
Pregnancies" gets top billing. 

Then, too, there was a curious series of periodicals 
distributed by the Marshall Cavendish Encyclopedia 
of Mind and Body. The distribution was thorough 
(within one week, I saw issues in the San Diego 
airport, a Chicago drugstore, and at Sherman's news 
agency here in Baltimore) and the popularity of the 
series was predictable, since child-raising was stressed, 
and most covers had pink babies. Almost as an 
afterthought, the issue I have includes an article 
about anxiety, indicating children as a major factor in 
above-normal worry levels. But I doubt that that 
article was noticed very much; it was not given a 
prominent position in the magazine. 

And even Look magazine's examination of the 
"motherhood myth" encased in the September 22, 
1970, issue, was billed by a cover photo of an airy, 
blonde-goddess mother, with a blonde-princess child. 

Now, I will grant that maybe the magazines' reason 
for emphasizing babies is not to present them as 
uniquely valuable, but to sugar-coat a serious mes- 
sage. (Maybe, that is, a Ladies' Home Journal house- 
wife will buy because of a "Miracle Pregnancy" 


headline and then, since she has the magazine, read 
Senator Muskie's unheralded article on pollution.) 
But the effect is to further reinforce babies as the sine 
qua non of existence. 

Just one more example. There was the issue of Life 
that dealt with the neuroses and insanity that can 
result from overcrowding. Fine. But then, in the same 
issue and given twenty times the photographic em- 
phasis, we encounter a hymn of praise to Antonia 
Fraser, British writer and socialite. And we are treat- 
ed to marvelous photos of her with her children: 
Camian, 5; Rebecca, 12; Natasha, 6; Flora, 11; Ben- 
jamin, 8; Orlando, 2. 

We are given an analysis of her latest pregnancy, and 
the familiar Glamour-Doll mother image. ("Here we 
are at a lunch with the Count and Countess of 
Longford,"— that kind of thing) but I believe my 
gripe here is somewhat different. 

With this particular story, we would have had a 
perfect chance for an alternate emphasis: might it 
have been refreshing to read about her problems of 
researching Mary, Queen of Scots? About the ways 
she tried to resolve conflicting evidence about the 
Scottish queen? 

We are told of Antonia's difficulty reaching the 
uppermost library shelves while pregnant; we are not 
told what was in the books she was reaching for. We 
know, if we finished the article, very little about her 
as a writer and relatively more about her as a mother. 
This isn't simple editorial Babysell. Life's and 
Look's ad pages don't show all that many house-and- 
baby products. And the Marshall Cavendish series had 
no advertising at all. Whatever the explanation is, it 
has to go beyond economics and involve more than 

It gets down to a cultural preoccupation, really. In 
other cultures, the family was the lifestyle, true. And 
the women had children, yes. But it was all somewhat 
matter-of-fact and not such a fuss was made about 
maternity. Here, as the nation advanced, motherhood 
came to be regarded as sacred. 


America said to Europe, "Give me your tired, your 
poor . . ." not "Give me your titled and talented;" 
and those who are tired and poor, throughout his- 
tory, have usually found solace in the close ties of 
large families. (This was before industrialization, re- 
member.) The entire American dream for these peo- 
ple, once they got here, was to give a grand purpose 
to their reproduction. They were to take part in an 
endlessly expanding society and proudly contribute 
their strapping sons to the conquest of the frontier. 

I do not accept that this was ever a good idea. The 
frontier got along just fine without all of us for eons 
and centuries, and I think it's highly doubtful that 
we've improved anything. But, even if it could be 
considered justifiable to have populated those empty 
spaces, we as a society just stopped looking at the 
reality while it turned itself inside out. The frontier 
which had seemed to us to be asking for reproduction 
quietly disappeared. And we went on reproducing. 
We became an industrialized nation that fragmented 
people into job functions and made the closeness that 
had knit the large pioneer family together impossible. 
And we went on having large families. 

After industrialization, though, we didn't really 
need all those babies, by any stretch of the imagina- 
tion. So we had no choice but to change the babies' 

We began to display them, as an item for show, an 
accoutrement, a status symbol. We began to think of 
them as decorative rather than functional, as luxuri- 
ous creatures to be handled carefully and indulged 
thoroughly. (Yes, of course I'm generalizing; but 
there's some truth to this, really.) 

The effects of the shift in the role of children is not 
good. If our own babies are our own accoutrements, 
if we regard them as extensions of our own desires, 
we, if we are personally selfish, can be led to consider 
their comfort paramount and neglect the welfare of 
the total community. 

Rustum and Delia Roy, in their book, Honest Sex, 
spoke of: 


". . . the gross selfishness in our culture that 
encourages the sentiment that charity begins at 
home, and secures that charity by providing noble 
phrases such as, 'It's your duty to your children,' 
and 'The family comes first.' The family ends up 
as a veritable sponge, sopping up any loving 
concern which might reach the world outside ..." 

And Martha Weinman Lear, in The Child Worship- 
pers, gives a specific example: 

"From Brooklyn, word comes of a courageous 
loner who quit the PTA because the girls refused 
to broaden their horizons . . . T told them we 
couldn't help ourselves unless we helped others,' 
she said. 'I told them, we need a new school. Ten 
blocks away they need a new school, too. Now 
why don't we think about this and examine our 
needs and theirs and see where it is really needed 
more? And they jumped on me and yelled, 'What 
do you mean, needed more? Our children come 

And on the NBC news August 6, 1970, there was a 
story. A group of white citizens had blocked an 
integration plan in Detroit. They were happy. "We've 
won a victory for our children," one said. 

Do you know any people who think that way- -who 
think, "Well, as long as my children can grow up in a 
nice suburb, the inner city can hang?" Or, "As long as 
my kids have a summer place with clean air, I won't 
worry if my plants pollute downstate?" Extreme 
examples, yes. (And hopefully outnumbered by those 
who see, along with that loner from Brooklyn, that 
we can't help ourselves unless we help others, too.) 
But babies and children, especially our own, can 
make us lose sight of the community as a whole. 

They can also obviate our own self- value; they can 
make us lose sight of our own worth as adult men and 
women. I have an article on my desk right now; it's 
from the May, 1970 Redbook, I think. 

The first sentence of the article reads, "Seldom do 


people other than saints, doctors, and mothers get to 
participate in a miracle." A man wrote that, a man 
who evidently regards childbirth as the only miracle 
around. I think that man must be wearing emotional 
blinders. There are lots of miracles a woman can 
experience because she's a woman, not because she 
becomes a mother. There are miracles that men who 
are not obstetricians can be a part of. What about 
lovemaking? Doesn't that count? What about other 
human relationships? Don't they count? 

Seemingly not. We're shown in many other ways, 
too, that only children (nothing else, certainly not us) 
are special. That's the idea of the calendars my 
laundry sends out: babies on every page. That's the 
idea of a bank billboard outside Pittsburgh; urging 
you to save, "For Life's Special Moments," it shows a 
newborn baby. And there's a book about the years of 
early childhood, The Magic Years, it's called. By 
implication, no other years hold any magic. By 
implication, we as adults become special or valuable 
only by associating ourselves with breeding and chil- 

The emphasis on childbearing is so pervasive — and 
yet, as Nathaniel Branden points out, so anti-sexual— 
that it's almost as though there's something anti- 
sexual about our culture. 

Though much has been written about the sexual 
revolution, it seems that from the very first, our 
culture looks forward to driving a wedge between a 
satisfied man and woman, or boy and girl, through 
children. From the very first, girls are told, "Here, 
help with the baby." And boys are told, "Be careful. 
Stay away. You'll hurt the baby." Thus, once that 
little boy and girl grow up and their own baby is 
born, male and female roles are sure to separate. And 
communication, sex, and love between the two will 
dim. We can see how this has happened by a casual 
glance'at some of the patterns of marriage in the last 

1) The man and woman married, had children. 
The husband left. This pattern is common in the 

inner city; and it's not a happy one. The men on 
"Tally's Corner" who have left their families are 
probably not happy. They are, at best, freed of 
being reminded that they have fathered children 
they cannot support. The women develop a 
"Men's nothing but trouble: better off without 
them" attitude. And they have enough to do to 
keep them busy, keep them from thinking. But 
you have to wonder. Do they know where their 
men are? Would they like to know what they are 
doing? Did they feel anything was lost when the 
man left? Surely there was a loss. And I am not 
thinking of what the children lost, though of 
course this is a valid concern, but of what the 
woman lost. 

2) The man and woman married, had children. 
The husband came home only to sleep. The 
woman raised the children. And where are these 
man— the factory workers and their cronies? With 
other women? At the games, the races, the bowl- 
ing alleys, the bars? And why? And are these 
women angered or hurt by the continual absence 
of their husbands? "Well, I keep company with 
the other women around here, you know. We've 
all got enough to talk about. We've got the kids to 
talk about, you know . . ." 

3) The man and woman married, had children. 
The husband took business trips and had affairs; 
the woman raised the children. Occasionally, the 
affairs ripened, and there were divorces. The 
husband got a romantic re-lease on life when he 
married his girlfriend. The former wife continued 
with the task of raising the children and may or 
may not have remarried. 

4) The man and woman married, had children. 
They stayed together. They were faithful, but 
they were obviously unhappy. To the wife, the 
days were drudgery. Resenting this, she became 
sexually unresponsive. Because of this, her hus- 
band began to criticize: the way she kept the 
house, the way she raised the children. Their 
quarrels became more frequent and more bitter 


but finally gave way to an uncaring silence. 
5) The man and woman married, had children, 
stayed together, were faithful, seemed happy. The 
two went to PTA meetings together and to church 
together with the children. There were occasional 
evenings out, vacations alone. At family reunions, 
the father played "My son— your son" games with 
the other men as they drank. He and his wife did 
not fight often. Neighbors said, "Such a lovely 
couple; such a happy family." And it seemed so. 

The first three patterns are well documented by 
social agencies and the divorce courts. The fourth and 
fifth are familiar, too. Visiting the homes of friends, 
we saw both types. 

That fifth pattern is the most subtle and it is the 
predominant one— the one selected by the media for 
magnification, anyway— the one that has become our 
cultural ideal. And there seems nothing wrong. The 
parents of this type did not divorce, did not have 
outside affairs. They smiled and seemed to take a lot 
of pride in their offspring. They seemed content. 
They were parents, and they showed no indication of 
wanting more than that. 

They raised their children to become what they 
wished they had been, occupationally, and to become 
exactly what they were, in life style. They assumed 
that their children would marry and have their own 
families. The fact that this was assumed— that no 
options were examined— might suggest either that the 
idea was very natural or that it was very weak. 

A career psychologist now with Johns Hopkins 
University told me, "The more avidly a man wants his 
son to repeat his own profession, the more apt the 
man is to have failed at that profession, at least on his 
own terms. If he had considered himself a success, on 
the other hand, he'd have no need to relive his own 
rise through the profession vicariously. He'd be more 
apt to leave the career decision pretty much to his 
son's preference." 

A rather interesting thought. If you fail, you want 

to see someone else (an extension of yourself) suc- 
ceed where you failed. 

Two psychologists (Lois Hoffman, Frederick Wyatt) 
have a theory that is close to this one. Parents who 
have failed to raise their first-born well, they say, will 
have more children, as they try to soothe their guilt 
about not doing a good job with the first child by 
trying to do a better job with later children. 

If you haven't made something work, try it again. 

If the entire family structure did not seem satis- 
fying, let the kids try it. Maybe next time around 
they'll make it work. 

There is, throughout the patterns of marriage out- 
lined, a suggestion of male retreat from the family, 
and yet mother and father are anxious for their 
children to repeat the pattern. Might there be an 
element of defensive self-justification involved? Who 
finds it easy to admit even a small mistake? How 
much more difficult it would be to admit that one's 
entire life may have been a disappointment, a failure, 
a retreat from rich possibilities into routine. Who 
could admit to his own children that he might have 
wished for more spontaneity, change, and variety 
than his life had held? Who could tell his own 
children that he wishes his children had not come so 
soon; that he wishes he had had fewer children; that 
he wonders what life would have been like without 
family responsibilities at all? 

"If I had it to do over again," is men's room talk. It 
is a rare statement for one generation to make to 
another. We, that next generation, can do it over 
again, in the place of our parents, and we can do it 
differently. And parents, in some cases, may be 
slightly envious of that fact. Or, still feeling the need 
to guide us (because their whole life has been spent in 
that attempt) but not knowing what else to guide us 
to, they come back to the "Live as we did" idea. The 
pose is maintained. We raised a family and were 
happy; we want you to do the same. 

Were they happy? This is the question. The fact 
that they stayed together is no proof of that. Look at 


the men who stay at jobs they don't like, who live in 
cities that they hate. They stay, because change 
requires courage and involves risk. 

Though these couples seemed satisfied, they may 
have simply lived without asking what they were 
living for, without wondering if it would make any 
difference whether they had lived or died. They lived 
in patterns: birthdays, anniversaries, religious holi- 
days, get the paycheck, errands, vacations, pay the 
bills, retirement, disintegration. 

These are the values we inherit. But, like hand-me- 
down clothes from an older sibling, they may not suit 
us. We as men and women today are more restive, 
more demanding of satisfaction, more given to im- 
pulse, less likely by far to react well to the restric- 
tions of family life, more attuned to spontaneity, 
excitement, breakthrough. If we do not recognize 
these things about our emotional nature, we may find 
the 1970's passing us by, as we live in our suburbs in 
a pale imitation of the 1940's-McCa//'s-togetherness 
lifestyle. We have no obligation to do that; we do not 
have to live the life of the previous generation over 
again. We can find our own way. 

But there is more to our cultural heritage than just 
the previous generation. There is the role of religion. 
The marriage manuals, particularly the Catholic ones, 
tell us, "You should want children," and continue 
with such a hard-sell approach about the sanctity of 
the family and the ultimate value and joy of raising 
souls for God . . . that one wonders: are they afraid 
that without such strong pleas, their couples might 
wise up and have no children? 

Religious and parental expectations have added up 
to many an unhappy young Catholic wife. For her, 
particularly, there was never any question. Over and 
over I was told, "I just always thought when I grew 
up I'd have children. It just never occurred to me that 
I wouldn't." 

Our tax and welfare laws also play their part. A 
$650 tax exemption certainly underscores society's 
general attitude about the desirability of children. 
And while an increased Aid to Dependent Children 


allowance seems the poorest of reasons for producing 
children, it is reason enough for many women. 

There are proposed changes. As Paul Ehrlich sees it, 
$600 should be added to a family's taxable income 
for each of the first two children, and $1200 added 
for every child beyond two. There is also an idea that 
the government should pay women $500 for each 
year that they do not have children, and I intend to 
go out and campaign for that as soon as I finish 
writing this book. 

But these are ideas of the future. Meanwhile, the 
outmoded structure continues to wield its influence. 
"Somebody sure must want me to have kids," a social 
worker reports a woman on welfare as saying. "They 
keep payin' me to have 'em." 

At other levels of society, too, it seems like the 
government wants women to "have 'em." Housing 
and Urban Development gives money to people who 
want to buy homes. The larger the family, the larger 
the subsidy. There are some restrictions, but basically 
that's the way it works. That plan not only forces 
taxpayers to contribute money to bail irresponsible 
baby-breeders out of their partially self-created finan- 
cial difficulties; it also encourages those who receive 
money from H.U.D. to remain poor. There's a provi- 
sion that if a recipient begins to earn above a certain 
level, the family loses some or all of the subsidy. 
What are we doing by offering such a plan? (Do we 
think there's still a frontier out there?) On the one 
hand, we're encouraging a poor man to have a large 
family, in spite of a small income. On the other hand, 
we're discouraging any of his efforts to help himself 
by raising his income. 

And one wife, whose husband works for the Civil 
Service Commission, complains that they discriminate 
against childless couples. The health insurance pol- 
icies offered, it seems, have a fixed charge for fam- 
ilies, no matter what the family size. Small families 
thus pay more than their share of the cost of the 
insurance. "Why?" this woman asked Edward G. 
Borchers, a civil servant at the CSC. 

"If the plan were tailored to individuals insured," 


he explained, "the premium, for some, would neces- 
sarily be so high as to preclude many people from any 
insurance." In other words, the only way large fam- 
ilies can afford insurance is by having small families 
help pay for it, right? 

Does that make sense? Obviously, these are ex- 
amples of outmoded and wrong policies, but potent 

But perhaps the most potent cultural force leading 
to childbearing is the mere fact that most other 
people have children, and so constitute the norm. 
Friends who have children can produce a lot of 
pressure, simply because they seem to talk about 
little else. One girl, eight months pregnant, said, "It 
just seemed simpler. Sooner or later, the conversation 
would get back to grasping, toddling, and cooing. 
And I was isolated. When I finally got pregnant last 
fall, I was one of the bunch. But I'll admit I'm 
apprehensive. I don't think I wanted this, and this 
isn't going to be the end. There's an entire status 
thing here, with the women who've had two children 
lording it over those who have one. And the women 
who've had more than two have their own special 
clique. It's a real trap . . ." 

One might well be apprehensive about children, 
especially in large quantities. According to Ted J. 
Rakstis, writing for the American Medical Association 
in a Today's Health article last year, "big" and 
"happy" are easily contradictory terms when used to 
describe family size. The authors of The Mirages of 
Marriage concur. They call the ideal of the large 
"poor, shoeless and smiling" happy family a myth. 
"Recent research suggests that the parents of five or 
more children who so proudly point to their huge 
brood may be putting on an act," the authors flatly 
state. And a psychiatrist for the National Institute of 
Mental Health, Dr. James Lieberman, has found that 
mental illness increases in proportion to the number 
of children in a family. (He also found out some 
other scary things: like child-beating and other such 
traits occur very frequently in large families.) 

And yet, some absolutely goofy literature succeed- 

ed in promoting that large-family image as classic 

Cheaper by the Dozen is as good an example as any. 
"The hilarious adventures of twelve wonderful red- 
headed rascals," is how most people got the message. 
The film Yours, Mine, and Ours combined two 
broken marriages and hordes of children, to which 
were added more: "Ours." 

And then there's Never Too Late, a charming play 
which furthers the myth that links fatherhood and 
masculinity. "There's life in the old boy yet," goes 
one line in, I think, Act III. 

Actually, the desire of an older man to have a child 
is usually an attempt to cover up for the failing of his 
sexual powers; it is far from a real expression of 
sexual power. And no professional person would 
pretend that Cheaper by the Dozen makes any sense, 
psychologically. Reproduction on that scale is closer 
to a state of pathology than a state of health, 
according to more than one psychiatrist. In other 
words, it's sick. Yet there the book was, for years, 
existing as a kind of classic, and as a most unfortu- 
nate cultural model. 

There have been plays and novels that have some 
recognized psychological validity; but they are gener- 
ally lesser known. The Pumpkin Eater, by Penelope 
Mortimer, is one. In the play, three characters— Jake, 
his wife, and the wife's psychiatrist— discuss her re- 
curring pregnancies in the following scenes: 

JAKE: (to his wife) About me? You don't give a 
damn about me, and you know it . . . You don't 
care about me, all you care about is the bills being 
paid and the bloody children, that great bloody 
army of children that I'm supposed to support 
and work my guts out for, so I can't even take a 
bath in peace, I can't eat a bloody meal without 
them whining and slobbering all over the table, I 
can't even go to bed with you without one of 
them comes barging in the middle. If you cared 
about me, you'd try to understand this . . . 


In a later scene, the psychiatrist tries to help the wife: 

DOCTOR: Do you think it would be wrong not to 
like children? 

WIFE: I don't know. Yes, yes I think so. 


WIFE: Because children don't do you any harm. 

DOCTOR: Not directly perhaps, but indirectly . . . 
And you have ... a remarkable number. You 
seem upset that your husband doesn't want more. 
This hardly sounds like someone who likes chil- 
dren ... It sounds more of ... an obsession . . . 

Children can do harm, emotionally. But this is only 
pointed out in obscure corners of the culture. 

How many women, after all, read medical studies in 
the Bulletin of the Menninger Clinic that link parent- 
hood and mental illness? 

How many women read the Ladies' Home Journal 

How many people read The Pumpkin Eater? 

How many people read Cheaper by the Dozen ? 

And children can do harm, ecologically. The realiza- 
tion of this is new, however; changes in our thinking 
are made slowly- Trying to see what future attitudes 
should be, by looking ahead through the window, we 
can be caught instead by what is reflected in the 
rear-view mirror. There, again, are all the cultural 
expectations of the past, following us and affecting 
our present attitudes. 

There is what Mrs. Jutta Hagner of the University of 
Maryland calls a pioneer or "cowboy complex," a 
persisting attitude that we can produce children 
endlessly since there is endless land "out West." Many 
ecologists speak regretfully of this pioneer view of 
Nature as something to be conquered and subdued by 
producing an increasing population. For a long time 
we have listened to this myth that says "Conquer! 
Produce!" And we have conquered and destroyed the 
land. But what we really need to conquer lies un- 


touched within ourselves. And we do breed; we do in 
that sense, produce. But what we really should 
produce are ways to view life, our own life, and 
achieve some sense of joy within it. 

Our thinking must change, since we have reached 
the end of our war with Nature and the end of the 
land's resources. Dr. Eugene Odum, as quoted in 
Gene Marine's book, America the Raped, states 
simply, "The War is over. We've won. We know that 
nature is defeated now before the advance of man . . . 

"But," he continues, "when we defeat an adversary 
in battle, do we simply go on killing and slaughtering? 
Of course not." 

And, when the battle is won, do we still call up 
more troops to aid in the killing? Of course not. As 
with a defeated nation, left with few of her resources, 
we should help Nature, realizing that we must live 
with her, and that we need her to live. And we must 
call off the fresh ranks of despoiling troops. 

We must. 

And yet incredible and threatening images from the 
rearview mirror persist. (The Family of the Year has 
nine children; the Mother of the Year has five.) "The 
Mother of the Year," pleads Paul Ehrlich, "should be 
a sterilized woman with two adopted children." (A 
cowboy politician says, "The U.S. could conceivably 
support twice as many people as we've got.") 


Even assuming that cowboy's statement to be true 
(it isn't; we haven't got the resources), if something 
isn't done, we're going to have twice as many people 
in thirty years. What then? What happens after we 
have dumped a Manhattan into Arizona and un- 
leashed our bulldozers to bury the few as yet un- 
spoiled areas of this once-beautiful country? What 
then? Not only will there be, finally, no more land; 
there will just as finally be no water suitable for 
drinking, no air that can be breathed. 

Children, in the aggregate as well as in the specific, 
can harm, can destroy: because they grow up to be 
us, and there are too many of us. 


Still, the cultural forces roll jollily on, unchecked 
("Mayor Proudly Points to Rising Birth Rate") spew- 
ing their mythological messages like pollutants into 
the air: Conquer! Produce! 




"Since in our culture, motherhood is widely be- 
lieved to be the ultimate fulfillment, an unhappy 
girl is driven in that direction." 

— Wenda W. Morrone, 

March, 1970 Glamour magazine 

As that quote hints, I'm going to be examining some 
little-examined motives for motherhood in this chap- 
ter; unhappiness is one. And I'm going to do some- 
thing that is, at least partly, patently biased and 
unfair. I'm going to impugn a lot of girls' motives for 
having children; and I'm going to aim wide and very 
probably hit some innocent targets. But that, after 
all, is what society has been doing for decades to girls 
who haven't had children. Writers, doctors, priests, 
society in general have viewed with suspicion the girl 
who didn't want to go through the birth bit. They've 
viewed her as though there were something selfish, 
immoral, or wrong about her choice to remain child- 

Now, you're not going to like this approach. / don t 
like it either. But at least, by putting the shoe on the 
other foot (yours?) we'll both know how it feels. 

First, let's talk about some common feelings that 
are assumed to lead to childbearing: 


1) Girls want babies because it is "natural" to 
want them. 

2) Girls have babies because they like children. 

3) Girls have babies because they want to fulfill 
a marriage. 

None of those statements is fully true. In a highly 
complex, artificial, industrial, and urban society, little 
is "natural" (we wear shoes; we dial telephones), and 
this includes feelings, interpersonal behavior, and 
emotions, as Desmond Morris has pointed out in The 
Human Zoo. 

Besides, attitudes about sex and babies vary so 
much from country to country, and from one cen- 
tury to another, that it seems more likely these 
attitudes come from culture, not Nature. 

That our attitude toward motherhood here, in this 
century, has become adulatory to an unprecedented 
degree— and that this attitude seems to be changing as 
more women forego maternity— may in itself argue 
that the desire for motherhood cannot be all that 

Ruth Benedict's Patterns of Culture; Ashley Mon- 
tagu's Man in Process, Kate Millett's Sexual Politics, 
and many of Margaret Mead's works have emphasized 
imprinting, early learning through language or cultur- 
al tradition in the learning of sex roles. Their conclu- 
sions seem to be that sex roles are learned and not the 
result of instinct. 

Now, motherhood differs from other sex roles in 
that a girl does not have to "learn" to bear a child, as 
she learns to care for children or to please a man . Yet 
there are aspects of the sex role involved in mother- 
hood: child-raising and maternal-conduct codes, for 
example, as well as the propriety of childbearing at 
certain times, at a certain age. And it is part of our 
culture's learned feminine sex role to want a child. 
And I don't think this fact can be discounted. The 
cultural code could conceivably reinforce an instinc- 
tive desire for childbearing, certainly. But, if an 
instinct is such, then it must be universal; and the 
desire for parenthood just is not. There are those who 


reject the parental role; and, just as significantly, 
there are those who are ambivalent toward it. If you 
are one of those with strong positive feelings about 
maternity, do not simply attribute your attitude to 

In a paper called, "A Paradigm for the Analysis of 
Childbearing Motivations," Mark Flapan, Ph.D., Co- 
lumbia University, wrote, ". . . childbearing motiva- 
tions involve a consteallation of socially defined and 
idiosyncratic meanings, some of which may not be 
recognized by the individual . . ." (Emphasis mine.) 

Further, he states, "No quasibiological entity which 
may be hypothesized as existing within the individu- 
al, such as a maternal instinct or drive, can account 
for motivations for childbearing." 

If the desire to reproduce does not result from 
instinct, does it at least result from love? When a 
woman wants a baby, is it because she loves her 
husband or wants to fulfill her marriage? 

Well, I know that's the idea we've always accepted: 
you love a man; you want to create a being that 
embodies that love. But when an ideal love situation 
exists, is a baby necessary? Perhaps not. A couple 
truly in love may need no child to embody that love: 
they themselves embody it. 

As Lila, a friend of mine from Houston, explains, 
"My biggest objection to our having children is that 
there's no one in the world who will deny that the 
husband-wife relationship is changed when there are 
children. I happen to cherish my relationship with 
Tom more than anything else in the world; so why 
should we change it?" 

Why indeed? If you are greatly in love with a man, 
you can just plain live your love together, every day 
and every night, and you do not feel the need to 
change or improve the situation (the euphemism is 
"fulfill") by having a baby. Change can, of course, 
represent a desire for growth in a positive sense. It 
can also be compensatory in nature, implying dissatis- 
faction with what exists. 

A baby, therefore, can't be assumed to symbolize a 
perfect love between man and woman. 


And there are many women who have babies who 
do not have the slightest love for children. The 
woman may, instead, love herself, and want an 
extension of herself to love. Such a feeling may be 
healthy, or it may be unhealthy. If a woman feels 
strongly that no other children could possibly do for 
her to love and care for— if the children must be hers 
and no one else's— then this desire is ego-centered and 
may approach narcissism. It does not suggest "love of 
children" very strongly, that's for sure. If such a 
woman loved children, wouldn't she be out caring for 
children, or teaching? 

If, in addition, this woman is eager to showcase 
herself during the process of child-production, this 
display can be taken as further indication of self-love, 
not love of children. There is a lot of vanity involved 
in such a woman's pregnancy, as she continually 
draws attention to her own body: 
"Oh, Harry, just look at my stomach!" 
"Ooh, just look— I'm starting to showl" 
"Am I too big in the tummy for these slacks now?" 
"Harry, could you loosen the seat belt another inch 
for me?" 
"Ooh, Harry, I think I felt something!" 
This behavior, in some women, speaks of more than 
a normal interest in the physical process of preg- 
nancy. Their pregnancy becomes their vehicle of 
vanity, their way of focusing attention on themselves 
(but too often without any corresponding deepened 
knowledge or growth of the self). Their "Look at 
me!" games are just that: games. 

Besides the "Look at me!" games, they have their 
"Care for me!" ploys. Friends, and particularly the 
husband, are expected to wonder if the pregnant 
woman would like some strawberries, would be more 
comfortable with a pillow. Now, gynecologists will 
tell you that there is no physical reason for a 
pregnant woman's capricious cravings for strawber- 
ries, pickles, pillows, maple-crunch ice cream at mid- 
night. These desires are attention-getting devices. 

Isn't the mere fact of pregnancy enough to "atten- 
tion-get?" No, because the woman realizes that she is 


no longer attractive, within the frame of reference her 
husband is used to. Many pregnant wives are haunted 
by fears that their husbands will be sexually attracted 
to a still-slender girl before the nine months are over. 
(Their husbands sometimes are.) 

The little needs are an attempt to draw husband 
close. If a woman feels weak or faint, she makes him 
feel protective. If she feels an urge for maple-crunch 
ice cream, she involves him with this unique experi- 
ence. If she does not feel able to go to that office 
picnic after all, she does two things: 1) she reminds 
him again of her delicate condition; 2) she keeps him 
away from the office picnic, where he might see all 
the slender secretaries in their cute sports clothes. 

Of course, a totally secure girl or woman would not 
rely on these games. But then, the fact that the games 
are so common only points up that very few secure 
girls, who are sure of themselves and their femininity, 
get pregnant. 

It's the insecure ones who do. 

Three researchers, Lerner, Raskin, and Davis, re- 
ported in the International Journal of Psychoanalysis 
(48:288-297, if you want to look it up) that a woman 
may use pregnancy to gratify infantile needs for 
affection; to try to strengthen a poor identity of 
herself as a woman, to reassure a weak or insecure 

Besides a basic, underlying insecurity or selfishness, 
other factors may be involved in pregnancy. The baby 
may be intended as a kind of coverup. A baby, to 
many women is a symbol, like a wedding ring or a 
nice house. What the baby will symbolize or indicate, 
these women hope, is that all is well with them and 
their husbands— that they have a successful marriage, 
a successful sex relationship. ("See, we did it!") But, 
like many symbols, it can tell a lie about what it is 
supposed to symbolize. 

Question: Is the Cadillac really a hallmark of suc- 
cess? Or might it be the mark of a man who has not 
succeeded and so must make everyone think so? 

Question: Is the woman who gives all those parties 
really well-liked socially? Or might she, just possibly, 


have no social life at all without the parties? 

Question: Is the woman who wants a baby— maybe, 
just maybe— trying to prove something, something 
that is not true? 

Might she doubt her femininity, her sexuality? 
(Pregnant teenagers, according to social workers, find 
little pleasure in the sex act itself.) If she doubts her 
femininity or sexuality, is this not a way to establish 

Many teenage girls find pregnancy appealing for this 
reason, especially teenage girls who find themselves 
going through a period of reasonless, crushing un- 
popularity, or, in the case of Irene, a 16-year-old I 
recently interviewed in a home for unwed mothers 
near this city, a total inability to relate to her peers. 
(I'm going into Irene's interview, by the way, not just 
because it's very interesting, but because it does have 
relevance to the emotions of adult gals who get 

"Were you happy at school, Irene?" was the first 
thing I asked her. 

"Not much, I guess." 

"Was there somebody you didn't like?" 

"There wasn't anybody I did like." 

"Was there— were there any people you might have 
wanted to like?" 

"No, Oh, well, I don't know. I guess I wouldn't 
have minded getting along with the kids in my 
homeroom. But I just couldn't get into what they 
were always talking about ..." 

". . . which was what?" 

"Boys mostly." 

"Did you date?" 

"Yeh, but not the way they did." 

"Did they go to different places?" 

"Yeh. I mean, when I'd get a guy to ask me out, 
we'd just like— go out, you know. The two of us. The 
others seemed to go all together. And like you said 
they went to different places." 

"Did you have sex with most of the guys who took 
you out?" 

"Yes, mostly." 


"Did you take pills or anything?" 

"No, but I knew when it was safe. I mean, I read, 
and you can find out all that." 

"How did you happen to get pregnant, then?" 

(Laugh.) "It wasn't safe then, I guess." 

"Did you want to be pregnant and have a baby?" 

"I don't know. I didn't think about it." 

"Did you care if the kids in your class knew you 
were pregnant?" 

"No, I didn't care. I mean, I don't care what they 
think. In fact, I told a couple of kids after gym class. 
I figured if they didn't like it, so what? I didn't care 
what they thought." 

"But you did want them to know about it, right?" 

"Not necessarily. I didn't even care whether they 
knew or not; or what they thought if they did 

"Who was it that you told?" 

"Two girls, Drea and Cathy." 

"What did they say?" 

"They got real upset about it. It was really funny." 

"Why funny?" 

"Well, I said, you know, 'Guess what?' And after 
they talked around for a few minutes, I said, 'Hey, 
guess what? I'm going to have a baby.' And they got 
real upset, like I said, and Cathy said, 'Oh my god! 
How did it happen?' and then we all started to laugh 
at that— how did it happen, you know; well, it's 
pretty obvious how! And Drea said, 'Are you sure?' 
and all that, and then she said, 'Who?' and I said, 'I'll 
never tell . . .' and made them keep on guessing. But 
even when they guessed who it was I didn't let on. I 
wouldn't have told them for anything." 

Irene told about that last scene with some relish. 
She opened up for the only time during the half hour 
or so that I talked to her. It seemed pretty plain that 
she had wanted the kids at school to know she was 
pregnant. She wanted the sudden scandal of "Irene's 
going to have a babyl" Remember, Irene was not 
popular. This pregnancy seemed like implicit proof 
of, if not popularity, at least success with one boy. It 
was, she admitted, an improvement on her situation. 


She had been drifting, rather unhappily. Suddenly, 
something had happened: an instant drama, starring 

Did Irene want a baby? No, although some girls in 
her position do. Feeling loveless and with nothing to 
love, they want an infant, since it is something of 
their own to kiss, cuddle, care for, without fear of 
betrayal. But, according to Irene, "I don't have any 
particular feeling about it (the baby). They can do 
whatever they think's best with it." She hadn't 
wanted the baby and all that responsibility. She 
simply wanted a status symbol— one that symbolized 
sex— and the pregnancy was it. 

It's not uncommon. Ghislaine Godenne of Johns 
Hopkins Hospital wrote in a recent paper, "I have 
seen many girls for whom pregnancy was a status 
symbol and not a disgrace." Girls assigned to Balti- 
more's school for unwed mothers often brag about it. 
("I'm going to School # 1— and Jim's the reason 
why.") Besides instant attention, the pregnancy can 
offer a way out of social or school situation that isn't 
satisfying to them. 

I talked to another girl, two years older than Irene, 
but with similar problems of social acceptance. She 
felt she wanted to keep the child when it was born. 
Two psychiatric caseworkers (Marcel Heiman and 
Esther G. Levitt) might have been writing about this 
second girl, Norma, when they wrote: 

"... the motivation for pregnancy (can be) to 
find a replacement for a lost love object, either to 
ward off depression or to counteract a depression. 
Regressively ... a woman re-creates for herself an 
object. Since these objects . . . are a substitute for 
the mother and since the woman has undergone a 
regression in order to create out of herself this 
object, the baby, it becomes clear that . . . the 
mother is not the mother and the baby is not a 
baby. The very reverse is the case because the 
baby that has been created is a replacement for 
mother; thus the mother is the baby and the baby 


is the mother." (American Journal of Orthopsy- 
chiatry, XXX, 1960.) 

Norma's mother had raised her and seven brothers 
and sisters. Although she was a bit nervous, Norma 
had been considered a promising student by most of 
her teachers. As she began eleventh grade, though, her 
mother changed jobs and met a man she really 
wanted. They'd go to North Carolina and live for a 
year, he said, and see how things worked out; but he 
didn't want the children along. The children were 
packed posthaste to an aunt who lived in another part 
of Baltimore. Norma became pregnant soon after- 
wards. ("The baby that has been created is a replace- 
ment for mother; the mother is the baby . . .") 

Now, that neat role reversal may seem a bit too pat. 
And you may be getting tired of the occasional 
psychological jargon. But there is something of truth 
there, and if I quote psychiatrists and such, it's just to 
show that the whole idea of pregnancy as feminine 
inadequacy isn't just my own little theory. Other 
people agree. People who study the human mind. 
And they should know. 

Rollo May should know. 

In his best-seller Love and Will he quotes Kenneth 
Clark regarding mores of the lower-class Negro girl. 
The marginal Negro female, according to Clark, uses 
sex to gain personal affirmation. She is desired; and 
that is almost enough. Beyond that, however, she will 
have a child, as a symbol that she is a woman. 

Dr. May adds to this: The struggle to prove one's 
identity and personal worth through pregnancy may 
be more outspoken in lower-class girls; but— it is just 
as present in middle-class girls who can cover it up 
better by skillful social behavior. 

And of course he's right about middle-class motives 
for reproduction. They're similar to the motives of 
Irene and Norma. I have a friend, now twenty-seven, 
who was brought up in a wealthy middle-class suburb 
of Chicago. Thinking back to her teen-age years, she 
said, "There were times, twice that I recall definitely, 


when I really, desperately wanted to become preg- 
nant. Both times, I had just broken up with a 
boyfriend and . . . needed somehow to prove myself, 
I guess. Thank God I didn't," she added. But— the 
motive was there. 

Rubin and Gertrude Blanck, in Marriage and Person- 
al Development, discuss a married woman who is 
similar to Norma. "I just love the idea of a baby 
growing inside me . . ." this woman told them; "I feel 
so incomplete ... I have nothing." Norma's attempt 
to explain her pregnancy echoed these words exactly: 
"I just had nothing; I wanted to have something." 

The same dynamics do operate in the middle class, 
though they are not well recognized. In fact, hasn't a 
typical middle-class attitude been condescending to- 
ward the breeding habits of the lower classes ("She 
might as well get pregnant and drop out of school; 
she can't do anything else, anyway") without seeing a 
similar pattern in itself? 

We who are, by economic definition, "middle 
class," have a few fewer children. We wait a bit 
longer. We cover the compensatory motive, as Dr. 
May said, with skillful social behavior, perhaps. But 
when we finally do bear children, we, too, may 
inwardly be trying to prove our identity and personal 
worth. Underscoring this is the fact that many ade- 
quate, emotionally confident, healthily sexual girls 
simply are not attracted to pregnancy. "Who needs 
it?" is their attitude. But many of us, in every class of 
society, who fail to prove our sexual identity or 
personal worth in life often attempt to prove the 
same by reproduction. 

Dr. May has his own case history of this. He spoke 
of a divorced girl, well educated, in her early thirties, 
and a successful editor in a large publishing house. 
She "obviously was not the slightest deficient in 
knowledge of sex and contraception." 

Nevertheless, after her divorce, she twice became 

"Now it is absurd," Dr. May writes, "to think we 
can understand this behavior on the basis of 'sexual 
needs.' Indeed the fact that she did not feel sexual 


desire was actually more influential in leading her 
into the pregnancies ... she became pregnant . . . 
to compensate for her feelings of emotional pov- 
erty . . ." 

I think we've always recognized pregnancy as an 
attempt to prove femininity when dealing with the 
unmarried mother. In Parade magazine (November 
20, 1966), Lloyd Shearer wrote: 

"Girls who become pregnant out of wedlock, 
from whatever stratum of society they come, have 
in common one factor: they are nearly always 
emotionally immature and frustrated personalities 
who have failed to form satisfactory social, per- 
sonal, and family relationships . . . Contrary to 
what might be imagined, the unwed mother is 
usually shy, withdrawn . . . lacking in self-confi- 

Florence Clotheri, in a 1943 American Journal of 
Orthopsychiatry, seconds the motion: 

"Unmarried motherhood in our culture represents 
a distorted and unrealistic way out of inner 
difficulties and is thus comparable to neurotic 
symptoms ..." 

And Louise Trout, in a 1956 Child Welfare magazine, 

"We recognize unmarried motherhood as a symp- 
tom of a more pervading personality disturbance." 

And, in discussing case studies of illegitimately preg- 
nant women, John Loesch and N. H. Greenberg wrote 
in the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry (July, 

"We found with striking regularity evidence of 
significant alteration in the lives of these unmar- 
ried women just prior to conception. In general, 
these alterations fell into the category of losses, 

involving such events as the death of a parent, 
some other significant relative, or the loss of a 
boyfriend . . ." 

Once more, I want to make the point that the idea 
of pregnancy as a result of feelings of inadequacy is 
not just my idea. Now, there is an extension of those 
viewpoints that I'll take the responsibility for. You 
may wonder why I'm giving all these assessments of 
the motives of unmarried girls who are having illegiti- 
mate babies. Again, it is because we are the same way. 
Take the words "unmarried" or "unwed" out of the 
viewpoints above, and you still have statements with 
some degree of validity. 

Of course, I would like to expand our concept of 
the word "illegitimate" in the first place. To my view 
a baby isn't "legitimate" just because the parents are 
married. If a baby is conceived for the wrong reasons 
(selfishness, immaturity, insecurity, to name a few) 
then that baby is illegitimate, whether born in or out 
of marriage. And many children of married couples 
result from wrong reasons. The emotional dynamics 
that produce a pregnancy don't automatically be- 
come different just because of a slip of paper, a 
marriage certificate. 

"Immature and frustrated personalities . . . who 
have failed to form satisfactory social, personal, and 
family relationships?" Lots of girls meeting that 
description have wedding rings— and babies. A girl I 
know named Gina quit teaching last year when she 
became pregnant. Why? The job was too much of a 
struggle; disciplining her classes was becoming diffi- 
cult; she couldn't get along with the other teachers. 
Rather than talking this out with her husband and 
examining alternatives (a new job; a different school; 
a change in her personality or attitude) she simply 
became pregnant, thinking this was the simplest 
excuse for quitting. 

"An unrealistic way out of inner difficulties?" Yes, 
an inner difficulty such as not being able to face your 
feelings. This seems hard to believe in this era of 
sexual freedom and all that, but a marriage counselor 


in San Francisco assured me that many wives still feel 
some distaste for the sex act. A baby can actually be 
their way of avoiding sex. They "don't feel well 
enough tonight, darling," during pregnancy; they're 
too "busy" or too "tired" after the baby arrives. 

"Significant losses ..." A loss of a boyfriend was a 
reason for pregnancy mentioned by Loesch and 
Greenberg. Actually, they went on to say that even 
the threatened loss of something in a girl's life is 
sufficient to cause depression and trigger a pregnancy. 
Maybe a wife fears that she may lose her husband's 
interest, that there isn't enough substance to the 
relationship without the commitment of a family. 
And, just as an unmarried woman may get pregnant 
hoping to get her man to marry her, a married woman 
may become pregnant hoping to manipulate her 
husband into staying with her. (Incidentally, this does 
not work. If there isn't enough substance to the 
relationship, you have to enrich the relationship 
itself, not toss in a child and hope for magic. If you 
have to resort to pregnancy to keep a guy, you've lost 
him. He may marry you for a while; he may stay with 
your for a while. But you've lost him.) 

A college friend of mine tried to keep her husband's 
interest by becoming pregnant. Marie dropped her 
senior courses when she married Jim; she worked for 
a while, until his parents offered to subsidize the rest 
of his graduate study. She thought she'd wait one 
semester before taking up classes again. That was one 
semester too long. She didn't have the inner resources 
to keep herself interesting. She felt out of touch with 
the campus; she didn't have much in common any 
more with their friends— or with Jim. ("We just didn't 
have anything to say to each other any more.") At 
the same time, his law courses were becoming more 
demanding, and Marie felt neglected. She became 

Jim was upset. He was angry that she would make 
such a crucial decision on her own; and he felt that 
his parents should not have to pay for a grandchild 
along with his law-school expenses. Marie would have 
liked for him to quit school then and act like a 


husband by supporting them. She became more and 
more withdrawn and resentful, and the baby did 
nothing to unify the marriage. They were divorced 
shortly after the child was born. 

If a girl has a baby to try to make up for a lack in 
the relationship, or to bridge a communication gap, 
the hoped-for re-establishment of closeness usually 
doesn't happen. When roles are completely separate, 
closeness is rare. 

The closest and most successful student marriages, 
according to Lillian Borgeson, a New York writer 
who studied this last year, are the ones where both 
partners are able to stay in school— in the same world, 
with the same interests. If you do that (share his 
interests; know his friends; discuss his classes; be a 
part of what he's doing) you will grow together, not 
apart. That compensatory (and divisive) retreat into 
the maternity ward won't be necessary; there will be 
no "loss" to compensate for. 

If you have any doubts about that, I think I'd like 
to tell you about Lila and Tom Prager. They're in 
Houston, Texas, both getting Ph.D.'s in psychology. 
(He has a fellowship from the National Science 
Foundation, she from the American Association of 
University Women) and . . . 

"This business of being in the same field is one of 
the reasons we are so happy with each other," Lila 
told me. "We understand all too well the pressures 
the other is under. So when I'm surly because the 
hypothesis on which I've based a paper turns out to 
be wrong, Tom is right there with me, offering 
sympathy of exactly the right kind, and— ever bet- 
ter—suggestions as to how to get out of the bind I'm 
in. This has a double advantage of keeping us close 
and of making us better psychologists in the profes- 
sional sense. I also love the advantage I have at 
parties; I can wife-talk with the wives, or I can 
shop-talk with their husbands. One of the minor 

When I asked her to describe what they sometimes 
talk about in the evenings, there was no keeping up 
with her. "Well, last night was rare, because we were 


home; and we go out for dinner often, usually the 
Night Hawk or someplace else close to the library. 
But last night we discussed our itinerary from here to 
London next month. We do some traveling under 
these grants we have, for comparative studies, always 
with a ton of tape recorders and books. Then I tried 
out the arguments I was writing up in the paper I 
turned in this morning; Tom kind of smiled and said 
it was hard for him to find counter-arguments against 
vague arguments, so we worked together to sharpen 
up what I was trying to say. Then we got to talking 
about the causes of aggression. Tom explained to me 
his latest theory, which sounded good; then he talked 
about some cases his theory couldn't handle; and we 
ditched the work about eleven, made some coffee and 
put on a 'Committee' record . . ." 

Tom and Lila have been married since 1965, by the 
way; and I mean married. 

You know the funny, relaxed kinds of conversa- 
tions you have just when a relationship is really 
starting to mean something? Tom and Lila still have 
them . . . 

You know the way a guy who really has a girl on his 
mind buys her things that are really her and not just 
candy-and-flowers tokens? Tom still does . . . ("Urn- 
hmm. He buys me, oh, things like 18th-century lute 
music; and Rainbath; and, once in a while, like when 
I came back from a field trip last month, a singie rose; 
and subscriptions to my favorite magazines, even 
though I could use the ones in the library just as well; 
and posters for my study area; and copies of my 
favorite statues from museums; and the Springbok 
jigsaw puzzle of a Breughel print we bought on our 
honeymoon; and . . . and . . . and . . ." 

I've mentioned Lila's reason for not wanting chil- 
dren before— and it should be even more obvious 
now. They have something valuable and wonderful, as 
a couple. 

There is simply no need for children. 

I seem to have been talking just about college wives. 
But many wives, on Main Street and in suburbia as 
well as in the married-student housing projects, try to 


use pregnancy to regain their husbands' interest. This 
ploy should be obvious if we look at just when the 
children come to a marriage (after one year; or two) 
and at just what has happened to the marriage at that 

Typically, the initial novelty of the marriage has 
ended. The "getting started" projects like decorating 
the house or apartment are completed. The surface 
romanticism has tarnished a bit (he talks to other girls 
at parties; they don't always cuddle when listening to 
records at home any more; they haven't been out to 
dinner in a month; they have had an argument about 
laundry). And the intense intimacy of lovemaking has 
perhaps begun a descent into the routine. The honey- 
moon, in short, is over. 

At this point, a wife has a choice. She can initiate a 
deeper, more personal and real relationship with her 
husband; she can enrich their relationship by drawing 
them both toward the world outside; she can stimu- 
late her own personality, again by outside contacts, 
so that she is a person continually changing, continu- 
ally new and valuable to herself, and to him; she can 
stimulate variety in lovemaking; she can find out 
what the challenge of being a married female is all 
about: keeping a man interested, by being interesting, 
even after he's used to her. 
Or, she can have kids. 

That's not a perfect dichotomy of the path forward; 
but it's not an invalid one, either. And I guess there's 
no doubt about which I think is the better way. Being 
a part of the real, adult world is my choice. 

To me, retreating to a plastic, womblike, mini-world 
(a city apartment, a suburban house) there to repro- 
duce myself amidst the Glo-Coat and the Endust just 
doesn't make it. I don't think that retreat does much 
to further an exciting or meaningful feminine person- 
ality. If it did, more husbands would go home more 
eagerly to their wives, for there would be something 
new for them to discover. 

Some husbands who have children do go home 
eagerly, of course. (But some do not.) Some, husbands 
and wives decide to have children because they prefer 


a network of loving relationships to a single love. (But 
in many families conflict predominates over love.) 
And husbands and wives without children can sur- 
round themselves with a network of loving relation- 
ships, too; but those relationships are not restricted 
by four walls. 

Children, according to Dr. Helene Zagier of Mont- 
hey, Switzerland, may not strain a healthy marriage; 
but neither are they necessary to enrich a healthy 
marriage. A marriage becomes enriched or enfeebled 
by its role in the total ambiance of the world around 
it. If you think you need a child as enrichment, 
seriously ask yourself if your own resources may be 
growing thin. 

One husband, multi-married and divorced (he was in 
his fifth marriage when I talked to him), had come to 
this conclusion: "When I see that my wife is thinking 
about kids, it's a sure sign to me that something's 
wrong. It's almost a woman's way of punishing 
herself and me, by tying us both down." (Pregnancy 
as self-punishment? Maybe, maybe.) 

"You know," the man continued, "it's almost as 
though pregnancy is a way some women reject men. I 
remember thinking this with my last wife. All she 
wanted to do was talk about pregnancy, read books 
about pregnancy, go to movies and plays about 
pregnancy. But what about my interests? This really 
dawned on me when she insisted we go to see the 
movie Jenny. Terrible movie. Maybe what put me off 
was seeing the ad on the way in. The blurb said, 'It 
doesn't matter who the father is: Jenny finally has 
someone to love.' Can you imagine that? It doesn't 
matter who the father is . . . Now, isn't that rejecting 

According to Dr. Sanford Wolf of Baltimore, quite 
possibly. "With some women, the response is almost 
spiderlike. They have their young; they drive the man 

You probably think I'm being extreme in dredging 
out these negative theories about motives for preg- 
nancies. But I haven't even mentioned the most 
extreme theories I ran across. (I found five articles, 


for instance, on a woman's desire for a "penis baby." 
I left that one alone because I don't know what they 
mean by that— whether a woman supposedly wants a 
penis, or intercourse— and it doesn't make any sense 
to me no matter what it means. My pregnant girl- 
friends have always had their problems, but 1 don't 
think they had penis envy.) And the March, 1970 
Glamour magazine outined, among recognized mo- 
tives for pregnancy "a desire for suicide!" 

Now, I don't know about that, either. At least, I 
don't think you can take it in a literal sense. Preg- 
nancy can be a withdrawal from certain areas of life, 
of course. Far from being life-giving, it can be 
life-denying: denying future options to both the man 
and the woman. Therefore, its effects on a woman 
and her marriage could be, well, suicidal. There may 
be women who sense that their husbands will not 
react well to fatherhood. Pregnancy may be their way 
of denying a future together. 

Pregnancy can also be a distress signal: "Help! 
Something's wrong with our marriage, Bob! I felt the 
need to make a drastic change." 

But certainly you can be more flexible and more 
creative about making changes when you are not 
pregnant. Any woman who sees pregnancy as therapy 
for a sick marriage might better suggest a trip to 
Europe— or to Esalen— and seduce her husband into 
that idea. It will cost a fraction of what a child costs. 

Now, money might seem like rather a mundane and 
unworthy consideration, if you're feeling like you 
want to have a baby. But we do live in a material 
society; and we've learned to want a good life, 
materially. If a child comes into conflict with the 
level of living you and your husband want, what will 
the result be? Sacrifice with joy? Or resentment at 
deprivation? The plain fact is that most people today 
simply cannot afford children; if a woman wants 
children despite that fact, she may be asking for 
something destructive. 

According to the federal Commission on Population 
Growth and the American Future, it costs the average 


family anywhere from $80,000 to $150,000 to raise 
two children and send them through college. 

For a mother with only a grade-school education, 
the total cost of raising two children— including lost 
job opportunities— adds up to an estimated $120,000. 
But for a woman with a college education (and 
therefore better earning prospects) the loss figure can 
approach $200,000. 

By the way, even after adjusting for inflation, the 
costs per year of raising a child rise about 30-45/J 
between the first year and the eighteenth. Women 
who blithely have children "as a way out" will be in 
for a surprise in about eight years or so, as their 
husbands struggle to make ends meet (unless these 
women are CPA's and have taken into account age- 
dependent cost increases as well as inflationary in- 

Personal experiences the two of you share, on the 
other hand, continually increase in value— and are a 
better way out, because they are also a way to an 
extension of your self -discovery. Children should be, 
too. But they are such a sine qua non of everybody's 
life that the ways to raise them have been rigidly 
prescribed, and there is little room for flexibility. At 
least it can be said there is less flexibility than is 
easily available for a couple. 

Keep that in mind if you feel at some point that 
you want to have a baby. There are many feelings— 
about yourself, your husband or boyfriend, your 
marriage or love affair— that can lead to a desire for 
pregnancy. Unfortunately, many of these feelings are 
negative. (You don't feel loved; your guy is not 
paying enough attention to you; your relationship 
with him is slipping.) And, just as unfortunately, 
pregnancy is not curative. 

Perhaps the most common underlying motive for 
pregnancy is a desire to establish or heighten your 
femininity. But it won't. You will feel "special" and 
be treated solicitously during pregnancy. But solici- 
tousness on the part of a man is not the same as love. 
And there's an unwholesome falsity of expectation 


among many pregnant women that that special treat- 
ment will continue after the child is born. But it 
doesn't happen. 

Mothers— maternal figures-are less, not more, ap- 
pealing. If you don't think that, just try, for a 
minute, to put yourself in your man's place. Which 
girl would he find more alluring: the 25-year-old 
housewife at home with two kids, a bridge club, and 
an electric oven, who shuttles in her station wagon 
between the school and the shopping center? Or the 
25-year-old secretary at his office who flips around to 
business luncheons, political meetings, fashion shows, 
chic shops, and art openings? 

Read the next chapter before you answer that. 



"The male animal . . . really has very little interest 
in watching his young grow up, unless he's having 
a marvelous time with the female who provided 
him with the young. Often, by the time the young 
have grown up, he has another female who also is 
giving him a marvelous time and more young to 
grow up. Sometimes he's very clever or very lucky 
and gets a female who doesn't have any young at 
"Then he's much happier altogether." 

—Pamela Mason, 

Marriage Is the First Step Toward Divorce 


Let's consider that possibility, shall we? That a man 
just might be "much happier altogether" if you— his 
female— did not produce any young. 

Larry Muir, a Seattle scientist, is happier that way. 
Though he's been married for seven years, he and his 
wife, Ellen, are closer than many newlyweds. At a 
pool party they attended here before leaving for 
Seattle, they spent most of the evening talking just to 
each other. 

David Lowry, an officer of Nexus Corporation, has 
been married for fifteen years; his wife has no 
children. I met him one day on Eastern's New 
York— Washington shuttle. He had several days of 
business in New York, but was commuting daily, 
since his wife hadn't been able to go with him. That 
just might indicate a man who's very happy with his 


home life, and it is a refreshing contrast to the 
escapist husband who would have booked a room at 
the St. Moritz and a table at Sardi's for after-five 

And a Minneapolis lawyer, married for ten years 
and with no children, says about his wife, "My only 
complaint is that I have to leave her in the mornings." 

How many stories would you like? 

I could easily give you fifty. But they are not fifty 
stories, they are one story told fifty times— and the 
story is this: a wife who has no children to preoccupy 
her time and attention can give that time and atten- 
tion to her husband. She is more of an attentive 
companion and a loving woman than a mother-of- 
two-or-three has time to be. And her husband thrives 
on this attention. 

Nearly every man wants this kind of attention from 
a woman. I don't think many men have enthusiasm at 
the prospect of offspring. As psychologist Helena 
Lopata has pointed out, men regard neither father- 
hood nor husbandhood as their chief roles in life and 
are rather easily annoyed by the inconveniences of 

Commonly, the way a husband explains the deci- 
sion to have children is, "Well, it seemed about time, 
I guess." And many men make it clear that it was 
their wife who wanted the children, not they. ("Well, 
I thought if it would make her happy, give her 
something to do, then it would be good;" or "I didn't 
feel ready. In fact I was really reluctant, but she was 
so emotional about wanting a child . . .") 

Things like that are what husbands say. Typically. 

And at times the responses get a great deal less 
enthusiastic than that. The adult male, it would seem, 
who has a clear and confident grasp on the world and 
on his life wants to live that life himself, rather than 
spend most of it "watching his young grow up." In 
the opinion of one therapist, "Women talk their 
husbands into having children far too often." 

Now, there are husbands who want their wives to 
stay home, be "domestic," have children. In the 
opinion of the same therapist, "Such a husband is 


either not very wise, or inwardly he does not love his 
wife very much. Let's look at such a situation in real 
terms. He wants her confined to the home, while he is 
out in the world of work. He gives her limited and 
routine tasks while he is out growing, learning, creat- 
ing, being challenged and stimulated by conditions of 
competition within his field. He is, by asking for such 
a situation, creating marital incompatibility: first, in 
terms of conversation; then sexually. And there is 
virtually no way around that. Such a husband, in 
long-range subconscious terms, is aiming toward the 
dissolution of his marriage, denying future possibil- 
ities of relating to his wife as a companion. These 
men, you see, do not feel comfortable with emotional 
closeness and intimacy. This is their way out." 

Not always are such subtle motives operating, of 
course. Probably, most husbands who do take the 
initiative in saying, "Time for a family," are express- 
ing a simple feeling; they want children to add to, or 
give point to, their marriage. And this is a genuine 
feeling, on a conscious level at least. But you still 
have to remember that your husband, like you, has 
undergone a process of continual baby-bombardment 
(or young-son bombardment, via the insurance, cloth- 
ing, and sports equipment ads). He has been affected 
by the same incessant cultural prods as you. Thus, his 
expressed desire is quite apt to be a simple acceptance 
of this cultural conditioning and not a deep, real, 
personal want. 

If his marriage is losing its lustre, the idea of adding 
a child to that marriage may have appeal. The idea of 
it, mind you. Count on it: he has no idea of the 
realities involved. In fact, when the realities come, 
most men don't like them. 

Redbook magazine, in one issue, admits that while a 
woman's feelings about her newborn have been care- 
fully documented, "Less widely known is the feeling 
of responsibility that seems to settle on some men 
like a rain cloud." 

"The night feedings will disturb your sleep, and the 
crying will get on your nerves," a cheery passage from 
The Expectant Father advises. "Your meals may not 



be ready on time, and they may not be as elaborate 
or as well-prepared as they used to be. The house may 
not be as tidy or as quiet as it was when there were 
two of you. Finally, and this is the hardest fact for 
many husbands to accept, you are no longer the sole 
object of your wife's love and attention . . . You will 
have occasional moments when you'll feel that you 
made a mistake in starting the entire thing." 

"Occasional moments!" stormed the father of two- 
year-old twins when I read that passage to him. 
"Occasional moments when I wish we hadn't had 
them?" He shook his head and seemed at a loss for 
words. "It was the worst mistake of my entire life. I 
should have known better, but I agreed to it. I'll have 
to say this— at least Betty didn't trick me, and I know 
plenty of guys whose wives have done that. But the 
effect is all the same, I guess. All the things I wanted 
to do while I was still young enough to enjoy them. 
Well, there's just no chance now. No time. And no 

"I used to break my neck getting home," a taxi 
driver in Dallas told me. "I knew just how to get 
every green light and make it home in fifteen minutes 
flat after my shift. We'd have a beer; we'd put the 
steaks on; we'd talk about the kooks that turned up 
that day. She used to always worry I'd get mugged, 
you know? And we'd watch TV, go to the neighbors! 
or go to this bar a few blocks away for a nightcap and 
dance. This bar's a real friendly place; used to be like 
a real family. When I'd got a lot of money, I'd buy 
everybody in the place a drink. Other times, they'd 
do the same for us. It was great. All the guys thought 
I had the greatest wife around. Now, I get home to a 
kid screaming, and a wife who doesn't notice if I've 
come in the door or not half the time, she's that busy 
with the kid. I take the longest way around I can 

Are these men 's reactions typical? 

Well, there's a study by Dr. E. E. LeMasters, and the 
fact that the study is titled "Parenthood as Crisis" 
should be a clue. If you'd like a statistic, 83% of the 
new fathers he interviewed reported "extensive" or 


"severe" crises in their home situations. 

New fathers were disturbed by the loss of sleep and 
the fact that their routines were upset; by the 
unforeseen financial complications of parenthood 
(how many couples really are aware that the purchas- 
ing power of the average employee with a wife and 
dependents goes down each year?); by the need to 
give up social activities and fun, particularly the 
spontaneous sort, which most men value. Fathers 
were seriously bothered by the decline in the sexual 
excitement of the marriage. There was noted a gener- 
al disenchantment with the parental role, and, by 
implication, a disenchantment, too, with the marital 

Another study by Arthur P. Jacoby in the Novem- 
ber, 1969 Journal of Marriage and the Family, indi- 
cated that 87% of new parents were disturbed rather 
than pleased with the changed family situation. 

This isn't the happy poppa image given out by the 

It may not even be apparent, to the casual observer 
of the new father, that he is unhappy. His reactions 
of disappointment will take place within the privacy 
of his own mind; he will not express them openly. 
After all, following nine months of emotional build- 
up and expectation, any statement of, "I don't like 
all this," would not be tolerated. 

Instead, there's almost always an initial elation on 
the part of the father. There's the ceremonial passing 
around of the cigars, the exhibit of Polaroid shots and 
paternal pride, and the joviality of many postpartum 
ceremonies which really serve to give attention to him 
as the new baby's father. 

But the natal novelty and the euphoria connected 
with it finis fast. Then comes the letdown, the crisis 
that LeMasters and Jacoby and others have described. 
And the older the child, the more problems admitted 
by the father, report several counselors. This crisis, by 
the way, involves far more than just little annoyances 
like the baby crying or the house being untidy. The 
raising of children, most marriage counselors feel, 
challenges marital happiness in profound ways. 


home life, and it is a refreshing contrast to the 
escapist husband who would have booked a room at 
the St. Moritz and a table at Sardi's for after-five 

And a Minneapolis lawyer, married for ten years 
and with no children, says about his wife, "My only 
complaint is that I have to leave her in the mornings." 

How many stories would you like? 

I could easily give you fifty. But they are not fifty 
stories, they are one story told fifty times— and the 
story is this: a wife who has no children to preoccupy 
her time and attention can give that time and atten- 
tion to her husband. She is more of an attentive 
companion and a loving woman than a mother-of- 
two-or-three has time to be. And her husband thrives 
on this attention. 

Nearly every man wants this kind of attention from 
a woman. I don't think many men have enthusiasm at 
the prospect of offspring. As psychologist Helena 
Lopata has pointed out, men regard neither father- 
hood nor husbandhood as their chief roles in life and 
are rather easily annoyed by the inconveniences of 

Commonly, the way a husband explains the deci- 
sion to have children is, "Well, it seemed about time, 
I guess." And many men make it clear that it was 
, their wife who wanted the children, not they. ("Well, 
' I thought if it would make her happy, give her 
something to do, then it would be good;" or "I didn't 
feel ready. In fact I was really reluctant, but she was 
so emotional about wanting a child . . .") 

Things like that are what husbands say. Typically. 

And at times the responses get a great deal less 
enthusiastic than that, The adult male, it would seem, 
who has a clear and confident grasp on the world and 
on his life wants to live that life himself, rather than 
spend most of it "watching his young grow up." In 
the opinion of one therapist, "Women talk their 
husbands into having children far too often." 

Now, there are husbands who want their wives to 
stay home, be "domestic," have children. In the 
opinion of the same therapist, "Such a husband is 


either not very wise, or inwardly he does not love his 
wife very much. Let's look at such a situation in real 
terms. He wants her confined to the home, while he is 
out in the world of work. He gives her limited and 
routine tasks while he is out growing, learning, creat- 
ing, being challenged and stimulated by conditions of 
competition within his field. He is, by asking for such 
a situation, creating marital incompatibility: first, in 
terms of conversation; then sexually. And there is 
virtually no way around that. Such a husband, in 
long-range subconscious terms, is aiming toward the 
dissolution of his marriage, denying future possibil- 
ities of relating to his wife as a companion. These 
men, you see, do not feel comfortable with emotional 
closeness and intimacy. This is their way out." 

Not always are such subtle motives operating, of 
course. Probably, most husbands who do take the 
initiative in saying, "Time for a family," are express- 
ing a simple feeling; they want children to add to, or 
give point to, their marriage. And this is a genuine 
feeling, v on a conscious level at least. But you still 
have to remember that your husband, like you, has 
undergone a process of continual baby-bombardment 
(or young-son bombardment, via the insurance, cloth- 
ing, and sports equipment ads). He has been affected 
by the same incessant cultural prods as you. Thus, his 
expressed desire is quite apt to be a simple acceptance 
of this cultural conditioning and not a deep, real, 
personal want. 

If his marriage is losing its lustre, the idea of adding 
a child to that marriage may have appeal. The idea of 
it, mind you. Count on it: he has no idea of the 
realities involved. In fact, when the realities come, 
most men don't like them. 

Redbook magazine, in one issue, admits that while a 
woman's feelings about her newborn have been care- 
fully documented, "Less widely known is the feeling 
of responsibility that seems to settle on some men 
like a rain cloud." 

"The night feedings will disturb your sleep, and the 
crying will get on your nerves," a cheery passage from 
The Expectant Father advises. "Your meals may not 


If fathering children establishes or satisfies a man's 
need for male self-assertion, why do all those Latin 
American men (who father lots of children) have 
mistresses? The Latin American man has another 
distinctive trait, too: close ties to mother. 

"Mama and the mistress, those are the main points 
of conflict," one Buenos Aires wife told David Bel- 
nap, in a Los Angeles Times interview. Mr. Belnap 
reports, later in that May 6, 1970, article, that "Latin 
men have social lives apart from their wives. . . . 
These involve any number of pursuits carried out 
with cronies and consuming a large part of the time 
. . ." What are some of these pursuits? A priest work- 
ing in Peru estimated that 80% of the men in the aver- 
age middle-class parish have permanent or semi- 
permanent mistresses. 

So it would seem that fatherhood, if it has a role in 
proving masculinity, is not in itself sufficient to do 
so. The mistress is necessary, after a time, because a 
man is judged (and self-judged) "masculine" accord- 
ing to the desirability of the woman he sleeps with. 
After giving birth to many children, the Latin Ameri- 
can man's wife usually is not attractive enough to 
cause other men to think, "Roderigo must be a real 
man to have her." To prompt this response from his 
comrades, Roderigo must search out a younger, more 
attractive and more sexually desirable woman. 

It's basically the same here, isn't it? 

After a while the American male, too, begins to feel 
he'd like a cute, young sexual ego prop. And parent- 
hood can be the crisis which precipitates his search 
for one. Parenthood can be the trap that makes a man 
feel enclosed, stifled. "It signals a man's loss of 
freedom, the final and firm hold of responsibility on 
him," says a marriage counselor of thirty years 

Time passes. The children's needs increase, and so 
do husband-wife conflicts over money, with the wife 
typically implying that more money is needed. She 
may start, seeing herself mainly in the role of con- 
sumer, thanks to all those clever advertisers we 
mentioned before. The "good mother" is the mother 


who has a newly-decorated playroom for Junior, new 
clothes and toys— all the earmarks. 

It can be quite an economic strain on Father. 

The authors of The Expectant Father, cited earlier, 
seem to realize this; but they're quite cheerful about 

"Take a deep breath and try to estimate what your 
child will cost you," they say. "The additional costs 
for the child may make it necessary to adjust your- 
selves to a different standard of living. This must be 
done as a result of a frank discussion between you 
and your wife. In any discussion of financial readjust- 
ment, remember that the baby is worth any sacrifices 
that you may be forced to make ... Of course you 
may be envious or resentful of your neighbor or 
relative who has so many more material things than 
you can afford. Don't be tempted to compete . . ." 

"... the baby is worth any sacrifices ..." 

That's easy to say. 

And, to some men, a baby may be worth any 
sacrifice. Some men are willing to regard the relative 
affluence of early marriage as a phase. After a while, 
they're ready to provide for someone else, and, if a 
child comes into conflict with "the good life" they 
previously led, they'll give up that previous standard 
of living with little or no resentment. 

But there are other men— and they are more numer- 
ous—who find great satisfaction in the sense of 
personal power that comes from being able to buy 
whatever they want. They want their good Scotch, 
stereo, vacations. They want a bright young thing on 
their arm (that's you) and that's that. Try to pin this 
sort of man down to a tight budget so that the kids 
can have everything from kiddie toys to college 
savings plans while he gives up his pleasures— and 
you've got trouble. 

Sexual and economic stresses can begin to interact, 
in a complex and destructive pattern. There starts to 
be conflict over money. Given this conflict, some 
wives start to spend more than ever out of a dis- 
appointment that this man who was once so gen- 
erous with them (when he could afford to be!) is 


generous no longer. Another motive for wifely over- 
spending can be sexual frustration. Sex life common- 
ly declines after children are born. Some merchan- 
disers view consumerism as directly related to sexual 
deprivation, with the "shopping trip" being almost an 
analog for the sex act— as the wife makes up for not 
being given love by spending her husband's money. 
("If women were ever sexually satisfied," Mary Quant 
has said, "all of us designers might go right out of 
business. Consumerism, as we know it, would be in 

The wife's attempt, though, to find some sort of 
solace by spending actually only hurts the marriage 
further. She pushes her husband further into debt, 
hurting his feelings of economic adequacy. If a man 
feels inadequate as a provider, he may also become 
less adequate as a sex partner, and not just because of 
pre-bedtime comments like, "How can we pay the 
bills?" either. The treadmill of debt can lead to a 
general sense of masculine depression that's not the 
same thing as a feeling of sexy virility. And, continu- 
ing a vicious cycle, the wife experiences sexual disap- 
pointment again— and again compensates by spending. 

That's one common pattern of marital breakdown; 
there are others. Some families just quietly resign 
themselves to relative poverty, and accept the fact 
that they can't afford much, not for themselves, 
anyway. I'd like to quote extensively from a Life 
magazine profile of the Mrak family, of Cleveland: 

"It was 3 o'clock on Saturday afternoon, and the 
temperature in Brookpark was 94 degrees," begins 
the article. "Frank Mrak and his wife were sitting at 
their dining room table, sorting grocery coupons 
which Mrs. Mrak had been clipping from the news- 
papers all week. 

"Their four children waited in the living room: a 
boy, Fran, 16; and girls Susan, 13; Mary Pat, 8; and 
Karen, 7. 'Ground beef is going to be our big buy of 
the day,' Frank Mrak said, 'We might get 30 or 40 
pounds . . .' 

"Every Saturday at 3 p.m., the Mraks go shopping. 
There are five grocery stores in five different shop- 


ping centers within fourteen minutes of their house. 
Most Saturdays, they visit each one. Sometimes they 
must hurry to finish by the 6 p.m. closing time, but 
by waiting until late in the afternoon, Frank Mrak is 
able to take advantage of sudden, unadvertised mark- 
downs made by store managers . . . especially in the 
produce department, where the goods will not keep 
until Monday. With a monthly budget that allows 
$150 for mortgage, $15 for entertainment and $150 
for food, it is these bonuses, these unexpected wind- 
falls, that are the highlights of the Mraks' weekend; 
indeed, sometimes of their week. 

" 'Tell about the bread at Kroger's,' Mrs. Mrak said." 

And, in this report, Frank Mrak then smiled and 
proceeded to recount in detail the lucky chain of 
circumstances which, on Saturday, had saved him 
$3.42 on twenty-eight loaves of bread. 

"Their lack is more than money," commented Joe 
' McGinness, who wrote this article for Life. 

They also lack experience— the wide varieties of 
experience that give life its richness. "These bonuses 
are the highlights of their week . . ." And of their 

" 'Sometimes it breaks your heart,' Mrs. Mrak said. 
'A & P had a special on liver . . . but the children just 
won't eat it . . .' " The shopping trip seems the 
measure of the entire dimension of their lives (I have 
measured out my life in grocery coupons) and of 
their emotional existence. Joy is a bargain on bread; 
heartbreak is passing up a special on liver. I think that 
is why that article was so very painful for me to read. 
Every human being has the emotional capacity to 
respond to much greater things than bread and liver. 
Joy goes far, far beyond a supermarket. Heartbreak- 
well, if my heart is going to be broken, it will be 
because my love is in crisis, or because the spring had 
very little sunshine this year, or because Czechoslo- 
vakia was invaded. It is a waste of human emotion to 
be that concerned about the price of bread. No one 
should have to be. 

And yet so many families live within budgets so 
tight as to squeeze all joy out of life. I met a man in 


La Jolla, California, whose life is much like the 
Mraks'. He's a safety engineer who works a full 
weekly shift at the San Diego airport. He also does 
tax work for a CPA and drives a cab four nights a 
week. He's not happy. 

"Five kids is more than anybody should have! If we 
had two kids, I wouldn't have to hustle at all these 
jobs and you'd better believe that would make me 
very happy. And if we didn't have any kids, we'd be 
living like kings, like the supervisor Larry and his wife 

There are beaches in La Jolla (beaches "too good to 
be true," according to Holiday magazine writer Chan- 
dler Brossard). This man and his wife never go to 

A police officer in Benton Harbor, Michigan; a 
Manhattan elevator operator; a Denver accountant; an 
exhausted machinist who ingeniously courts overtime 
at a depressed Boeing company plant in Seattle— how 
many stories would you like of men who have "no 
time left for myself" due to job, extra jobs, overtime 
hours, because of family expenses? Do these hus- 
bands and wives have the leisure to enjoy each other? 

Oh, but this has no relevance to us, you may be 
thinking. We're middle class. We earn almost $11,000 
a year. We have credit cards. Children wouldn't be 
such an economic burden that we couldn't enjoy life. 
With time payments, we can afford just about any- 

But how do those time payments make a man feel? 
Unless he's crazy about his work, he feels like a 
"servant" in two senses: employee for the boss, 
wage-slave for the home. That double-servant role can 
get kind of oppressive. Tied down with time pay- 
ments, a man isn't free to have an impulse. And 
where, after all, is it going to end? When your 
husband's salary increases a year from now? Think 

A financial corporation has a bright ad. "Relief for 
the financially indigent," is its headline. And that ad 
is meant for the middle class. Shown are husband, 
wife, small child in red jumpsuit, baby in arms. 


"You know them," the ad reads. "The young 
family men with one or two kids. And one or two 
mortgages. They need life insurance. But looking 
after their families' welfare could put them on wel- 
fare. The life insurance they'll be able to afford at 
thirty-five, they need at twenty-five. Continental 
Assurance has a plan that lets the young wage earner 
have the permanent cash-value protection he needs 
right now. But lets him pay for it later. At first he 
pays about half the normal premium. In ten years he 
reaches the final level . . ." (emphasis mine). 


In other words, as his wages grow, they are eaten up 
not only by various inflations, taxes, hidden cost 
increases, family expenses, but increases in life-insur- 
ance payments, too. Now, do you really want your 
husband tied to ever-increasing, in-case-of -death pay- 
ments of that sort when he should be enjoying life, 
and you, instead? 

There are subtler aspects, too, to the economic 
burden of supporting a family. Some increased job 
tensions may be directly related to children. 

"I'd better watch my step, I can't let anything 
happen to my job now; I really need every paycheck 
now," can be an inhibiting feeling for a man to carry 
with him through the work week. 

That feeling can even reduce a man's chances of 
getting the raises that are critical to his self-esteem. I 
talked recently at lunch with a New York copywriter, 
who had just asked for, and gotten, a $3,000 annual 
raise. "How did you bargain for that?" I wanted to 

"There was no bargaining to it. They knew if I 
didn't get it, I'd simply walk off and go somewhere 
else. I don't care if I don't work for a month, or six 
months. I know what my work is worth; and if my 
agency wants to keep me, they'll have to pay for 
what it's worth. 

"Of course," he went on, "it's not that easy for 
everybody. Elaine and I could get by, with our 
savings and her salary, for some time. But there's a 
guy in our office who's stuck at half my salary right 


now, because he can't make demands like I can. His 
wife doesn't work; he's got three kids, so they know 
he's not about to walk out and take his chances on 
the street. They know they've got him. So, he doesn't 
ask for the raises, and he doesn't get them. Too bad, 
too, because he's just as good a writer as I am, and if 
he believed in himself a little more, he could get a 
better job. But he's afraid to take the risk." 

I want to pose another question. What if the 
following assignment were given to those two copy- 

"Our largest client, The X Corporation, has been 
under public attack for polluting the city's air. Write 
a campaign that will convince the public the company 
is doing something about the problem." Both men 
might ask, "Listen, are they really doing anything?" 
What if the answer were, "No, they're really not; this 
is just a p.r. job." Both men might think, "In that 
case, I won't touch that assignment with a ten-foot 
pole and to hell with anybody who tries to make me, 
agency or client." Which of the two would have the 
courage to speak his mind? 

What effect does it have on a man if he can't say 
what he thinks at his job because he needs every 
paycheck too desperately? What happens to a man 
who has to suppress or abandon his ideals? 

I'll tell you what happened to a man I'll call 
Kenneth Dolan, who worked, years ago, at a minimal 
salary for the American Civil Liberties Union in 
Columbia, South Carolina. Looking back, he says, "I 
was on fire during those years. Life had so much 
purpose and meaning that I used to pity everybody I 
knew who just worked for a salary, who just worked 
at any job without believing in it. It was inconceiv- 
able to me that anybody could live without this kind 
of involvement. It uses you up completely, and yet it 
makes more of you all the time. I even pitied people 
who went to the movies, the concerts. What a waste 
of time; what pathetic shadows of life they were 
seeing; I was living it!" 
He talked for maybe an hour, steadily. 
But Ken Dolan doesn't talk much about the job he 
118 \ 

has now. He's now an architect for a land developer 
in Atlanta. Seems when his wife became pregnant, 
they had a long talk. ("Or I should say she had a long 
talk. I was so stunned I couldn't even think.") She 
had been very patient, she said, but he was wasting 
himself and getting no reward for it. Look at the 
shabby apartment they lived in. But that wasn't the 
point. It was all very well, his wanting to help people. 
But he'd done enough. Now, with the baby coming, 
he should get a job with more money— and one that 
wasn't involved in controversy. She didn't want her 
baby's father's name on some sheriff's list. 

They live in a nice house in Atlanta now. 

Another crusader forced to abandon a crusade 
before beginning it is a close friend of ours, a young 
law student who wanted to join Ralph Nader's inves- 
tigations immediately after graduation. In fact, he 
had applied to work with a team researching land 
practices in California. Ron was a keen, competitive 
guy, very turned on to what was wrong all over, very 
eager to get to work and change it. By graduation, 
though, his wife, also a law student, was pregnant. 
Working out of Nader's Center for Responsive Law 
he'ii not have gotten much of a salary, just expenses. 
So that wouldn't work. 

Ron is not working for Ralph Nader. He is working 
for Olin Mathieson Chemical Corporation. 

Parenthood can be a crisis involving more than the 
"disturbance of routine" and other inconveniences 
that Professor LeMasters' study turned up. R. H. 
Gardner, a writer for the Baltimore Sun, put it on the 
line in one of his columns: "How many young men's 
dreams," he asked, "have been sacrificed to the need 
for a modern kitchen, separate bedrooms for the 
children, and an education at the college of their 
choice?" How many? Would anybody like to count? 

Children don't always force abandonment of ideals. 
But it can happen. 

Family burdens can also cause trouble in simpler, 
more tangible ways. An engineer at a G.E. plant near 
here was laid off. No savings. He applied at once to 
two other large companies in the Baltimore area. 


Surveying his former salary ($16,000) and his family 
status (four children) one company was generous 
enough to offer him $11,000. They knew he would 
go to work for that, because he needed a paycheck- 
soon. We're acquainted with the personnel manager 
of that company, and I asked him about it. "It might 
seem pretty heartless," he said, "but actually we 
figure we're doing him a favor taking him on, when 
we could hire somebody without his experience for 
$1,000 less. And he'll have a chance to work his way 
up here, in just a few years ..." 

"No," he answered my next question, "he hasn't 
accepted yet, and I can understand his feelings. He 
thinks if he can just hang on for a month, he'll find 
something like the sixteen he was making before. I 
doubt that he could, but in any case he can't wait 
that long, not with all those kids. I really expect him 
to be in to work this week." 

Then there was the loan officer of a Boston bank 
who, after the birth of his child, managed to get 
himself fired, because he was so suddenly shaken by 
the mounting expenses and responsibilities. "The 
only way we can make ends meet, with Louise not 
working," he told a friend of mine, "is for me to 
really make progress here at the bank. I'm really 
sweating it, but I'm acting the image, you know? Just 
watch the new Me— dynamic, full of authority." 

Not too long after that, the bank manager told the 
same friend of mine, "We let Ben go. Really dis- 
appointed me; he was one of our best employees. 
Really well-liked by everybody. Nice, clean-cut young 
man. Very good employee. But something came over 
him. Hard to say, but it's as though he read a book 
called How to Climb the Corporate Ladder and 
started overstepping his authority, trying to tell me 
how the other loan officers were doing things wrong, 
really stepped on a lot of people's feelings. 

"And then there was the question of salary. Now I 
know his wife has had to quit work, but Ben knew 
our scale of raises here; and the salary he started 
insisting he was worth . . . was just not in line with 
our policy. We couldn't have made an exception." 


Not many men lose their jobs in that way, as a 
direct result of having a child. But many men with 
children do, at some time, lose a job, or have 
difficulty supporting their family. That's never an 
easy situation, and it is, in fact, a situation some men 
will simply walk away from. "And the more children 
a man has, the easier it is for him to walk away," 
explained a Pittsburgh welfare worker. "Seems that 
way, anyway: with more children, there's less sense 
of obligation; the more children there are, the less 
each one means. It's no accident, in my opinion, that 
the ghetto areas have the largest numbers of children 
per family, and the highest rate of desertion. Of 
course, economics is involved, too. A man looks at all 
those children and realizes not only that he can't care 
for them all but that there's no way he can support 
them all. So he leaves— leaves them to us." 

Desertion by the father isn't limited to the ghetto. 
It's still basically a question of earning power and 
demands on that earning power. "Desertion goes up 
when the factories lay off," said the same counselor, 
"but even without that you'll have a certain percent- 
age of, say, factory workers who just walk away every 
year. When a guy gets to a point where he can't buy 
the guys he works with a round of beers on payday 
without the wife screaming, 'Where's the rest of the 
money? The kids need this and this and this,' that's 
when he takes off. That's when he decides, 'To heck 
with his family business!' " 

When annual income is above $12,000, desertion is 
called divorce, because husband and wife can afford a 
certain legal minuet. But the reasons are the same. I 
asked a friend of mine, a lawyer in Minnesota, "What 
is the most usual reason men have for filing for 
divorce? What does a husband typically say when he 
comes to you?" 

"Easy question. Ninety percent of the time, they 
say they haven't slept with their wife in two 
years ..." 



Other divorce lawyers generally agreed. Oh, one 

didn't. "Children don't have much to do with wheth- 
er a marriage breaks up. The breakups are over money 
and sex, not children," he said. 

I think he was missing the point. Another lawyer 
(this man from Norfolk, Virginia) agreed, but put the 
matter in perspective: "The greatest areas of marital 
conflict are undoubtedly sexual and economic," he 
said, "but the presence of children can actually 
produce or catalyze the conflict." 

Does sex always decline after children are born, and 
perhaps begin that economic spiral of overspend we 
talked about earlier? 

"Yes, I think it's inevitable that sex declines after 
children," said one. "Well, I'll put it this way: I've 
never seen a case where it got better," said another. 

"Your total romance picture declines, and so your 
sex life is going to go downhill, too, since men are 
conditioned to be sexually stimulated within a ro- 
mantic context," went a third comment, in a later 
interview that same day. 

Dr. Rustum Roy, mentioned previously, feels that 
the main reason for this decline is the simple matter 
of increased demands on a wife's time and attention. 
The wife knows she's got to get up in four hours to 
feed the baby; she's miserably tired from working 
around the house all day in an unaccustomed sched- 
ule; she's out of sorts; she has a headache and has just 
got to get some sleep. Not the sort of wife to pop 
into a tangerine negligee and lure her man into 
rapturous abandon. 

"Why start anything? The kid will just cry," is the 
way husbands begin to feel. As a British husband who 
had just left his wife explained to me, "There were— 
few occasions when we could be free of the babies' 
needs. There were fewer occasions of sex, it was as 
simple as that. And therefore there were fewer occa- 
sions when everything went right and was fulfilling. 
This led to some trouble in other ways. It was simply 
not the same. It was not the marriage I had bargained 
for; she was not the wife she had been before, not 
responsive to me ..." 

In the LeMasters study, a major complaint of the 

husbands interviewed was: lack of responsiveness on 
the part of their wives. 

"Well, the men can complain about lack of respon- 
siveness all they want," in the opinion of one Freu- 
dian psychiatrist. "It's somewhat of a cop-out to say 
that. It's really a matter also of lack of attraction to 
the wife, once she becomes a mother. A man's sexual 
response to a mother figure— well, let's say it's often 
ambivalent at best." 

And Virginia Satir, formerly director of Esalen at 
Big Sur, California, explained a common pattern of 
infidelity: "When the wife becomes a mother, the 
man may seek competition, as he did when he was 
younger and broke away from his own mother, by 
looking for a girlfriend. " 

I think there's very definitely a change in image 
when a girl becomes a mother, and I think it has to 
affect a man's sexual response. In our culture, boys 
grow up learning that you sleep with young girls, not 
mother figures. 

A friend of mine (two children) got very angry at 
this suggestion. "Mature men want something more 
than just a swinging chick!" she insisted. 


Her husband was with her at the time; and he 
neither reinforced nor denied her point. 

I wish there were some statistics on this. I'm not 
very fond of statistics, but this one I think would be 
interesting. Are men who have children more apt to 
look for sex outside of marriage? Maybe there are 
some figures, and I just wasn't clever or thorough 
enough to find them. But I did look, and although I 
found infidelity linked to such things as parents' 
religion and age at onset of puberty, there was 
nothing about infidelity and family size, or compara- 
tive infidelity of childless husbands and fathers. 

A counselor of many years experience at American 
Institute of Family Relations in Los Angeles did 
venture an opinion: "With greater numbers of chil- 
dren, you experience greater economic and emotional 
strain," he said. "Therefore, you have greater possibil- 
ity for conflict; therefore, you have greater need of 


ego satisfaction. And with increased diminution (that 
was his phrase, really!) of the wife's attention to the 
husband, the husband might seek an alternate source 
of ego satisfaction." 

Condensing that: Yes, the father just might go 
looking for another woman. 

Then, too, there's the bare fact that a husband with 
children very often has more opportunities for sex 
outside of marriage. His wife is with him less. 

"I had to go to Chicago for a week, and I thought 
maybe we could make a vacation out of it. But my 
wife didn't think we should take the kids out of 
school for a week, and she didn't want to leave them 
with her folks for some damn' reason, and if that's 
the way she feels about it, she can't blame me for 
what 1 do while I'm here alone . . ." 

"No, Janet didn't go with me to New York. One of 
the twins had a possible upper-respiratory infection, 
and she didn't, think she should leave . . ." 

"No, I'm here at the ABA convention by myself 
this time. My wife used to make the trips with me 
every year, but since the kids . . ." 

"Well, most of our wives used to travel with the 
team, but Dick's wife is the only one who does 
anymore; she doesn't have any kids to make arrange- 
ments for. The rest of us, well, manage to make — 
adjustments. You doing anything tonight?" 

How many stories would you like? 

I could tell you fifty. 

But it is not fifty stories, really; it is one story, fifty 
times . . . 

The husband traveling without his wife, in effect, a 
single man again. There are girls in whatever city he 
goes to, and lots of them look like my friend Lori. 
And there are lots of men who actively seek out such 
opportunities for freedom through travel, though at 
times the "travel" is only to another part of town. 
There was a man in the Southwest who turned down 
a promotion to branch manager of an insurance 
office, preferring to remain a claims inspector because 
he was able to be out of the office, "where my wife 
can't reach me." 


And an executive told me in Boston, "It's my firm 
belief that this whole structure of business travel- 
conventions, sales meetings, management seminars, 
account solicitations, training programs— grew out of 
a pretty comprehensive desire on the part of com- 
pany men to get away from their families. In fact, 
we've got a policy of discouraging wives from coming 
along. If even one wife did, she might tell the rest 
what goes on. The ostensible reason, of course, is that 
we're occupied with business. Not at night we're 

Whether or not there is, and to what extent there is, 
infidelity is probably beside the point. The point is 
that men do seem to withdraw from the home, 
particularly after children are born. The factory men 
fill the neighborhood bars; the ghetto men are on the 
streetcorner; the middle-management types are work- 
ing late at the office; and, at 7 p.m., from the 
Westwood Village for married students at UCLA, 
there is a mass exodus of men for the library, leaving 
their wives and very young babies in the apartments. 
("After the child comes," said a UCLA counselor, 
"the husband will stay home less because it's difficult 
to study.") 

Now, of course some men stay home a lot. Some 
never go on business trips, and if they do, they 
behave themselves. And some men drive home faith- 
fully at 6 p.m. and take part in togetherness activities 
like neighborhood barbecues and Little League 
games. But please don't assume that this is the norm, 
because it honestly doesn't seem to be. 

It's interesting, I think, that June Robbins, in an 
article dealing with Little League baseball, continu- 
ally referred to Mom 's interest in the game. You might 
imagine that the father's involvement might also be 
strong. But her article, in the July, 1969 McCalVs, 
didn't even mention Father. By the time his lads 
reach Little League age, has he withdrawn from the 
family to the point where he's simply not interested? 
If so, then the marriage may not have much meaning. 
Whether or not it stays together, it has broken down. 

Of course there are reasons, other than children, for 

separation of husband's and wife's interests. There are 
other reasons for the breakdown of a marriage. 
Marriages without children can have their problems, 
too. If one or the other partner is insecure and 
demands too much attention, there are problems. If 
husband or wife finds his work boring or frustrating, 
there can be problems. If one partner does not get 
along well with the other's friends, that's a problem. 
Any marriage has to bring some problems, because 
marriage seeks to integrate two distinct personalities, 
arid such integration can never be completely 
achieved. There are always some clashes along with all 
the love and cooperation. 

But without children, the problems can be more 
easily solved. The chance to be alone, to talk about 
problems and to relate to each other is far easier 
without children. The novelty and stimulation of new 
experiences together (dinner out, a weekend away, a 
long trip) are more available, and they are necessary 
ingredients to growing love as well as therapy for 
troubled love. 

But such prescriptions can be hard to fill if there are 
children. ("What do you mean, go out for dinner? 
Have you looked at the budget?" "What do you 
mean, go away? Who's going to keep Sarah and 
Junior, I'd like to know!") In such cases, is it 
surprising that a man might find his therapy alone? 




"I am tired of discussing household matters. There 
is no worse thing than for women to sit day after 
day taking care of miserable . . . puling children." 

—from an 1870 Harper's Bazaar magazine 
accompanying a drawing now in the 
Bettman Archives 

"The first twenty years of a woman's life are 
extraordinarily rich; she discovers the world ... at 
twenty or thereabouts, mistress of a home, a child 
in her arms, she stands with her life virtually 
finished . . ." 

— Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex 

The girl was young, twenty-three perhaps, and with 
bright red hair sleeked under an Indian band. She and 
her husband seemed far too young to be on the verge 
of separation, to have come to thus Baltimore counse- 
lor's office as a last try to avoid divorce . . . 

She was looking at her husband angrily. "Why did 
you change so completely toward me after the chil- 
dren came?" she demanded. 

"Elizabeth, please think back. Wasn't it you who 
changed? Even after Troy was old enough to leave 
him with a sitter, you had no time to meet me, no 
interest in planning anything together . . ." 


And the interview did show that the changes of 
attitude had been hers, at least initially. 

Just the physical burdens of child care can cause a 
depressing change in a young wife. It occurs to me, 
really, that the problem of the population explosion 
might be solved— at once— if every girl who was even 
remotely thinking • about babies were given a free 
batch of these "How-to-Be-a-Mother" books, outlin- 
ing all the work involved. 

I'm suspicious of anything titled How to Be a 
Mother anyway: the omission of the word "wife" 
seems curious. The redheaded girl who was about to 
lose her husband had" read these books and taken 
their suggestions for efficiently scheduling her day. 

"The day has arranged itself," says a book called 
How to Be a Successful Mother; "it seems to have 
a will of its own. The work almost tells you what 
you have to do next. All the messy picking up, 
cleaning, laundry fall into the cheerful, energetic 
early part of the day . . . After lunch comes baby's 
nap, and you have found out just how to utilize 
that time . . . perhaps you do some of your 
cooking then . . . you do long careful jobs where 
the baby is unwelcome— waxing, ironing ..." 

None of the books, though, had suggested keeping 
up with her husband's world, or meeting him for 
lunch or cocktails. So involved are these manuals with 
structuring and analyzing all the tasks involved in 
child care that the husband is all but forgotten. 

"You always seemed angry and pressured," the man 
was saying to his wife. "You did two things con- 
stantly, two things: one, you complained about the 
housework; two, you never did it." 

"There was never time to do a goddam thing. You 
know what a difficult baby Troy was; it wasn't my 
fault he would never sleep, that I was so busy taking 
him for check-ups and trying to stop his crying that I 
never— well, I barely had time to shop for grocer- 
ies . . ." 

Another book-for-mothers, this one by Dr. Clair 


Isbister and called What Is Your Problem, Mother? 
(Hey, I think I could answer that) tells of a British 
survey studying 700 full-time housewife-mothers. 
Seems the average at-home mom spent fifteen hours a 
day (!) at child care and housekeeping. 

I didn't believe it either. But Elizabeth insisted 
almost tearfully that every minute was taken up. . . . 
And we visited some friends who have children last 
night, and I noticed a few things I hadn't before. 
Fifteen hours might be about right. You see, even 
when a mother is just sitting down with her husband 
and friends to talk, she's apt to hear "Mommy!" and 
she has to up and deal with a small child-crisis. It 
takes maybe ten minutes. Or, the telephone rings. 
And she must explain to another mother, "No, that's 
not really what went on at the playground. Yes, 
Keithy was there alone, but it wasn't Keithy who was 
causing the trouble. It was Jonathan, and ... oh, 
Steffi came home crying? Oh, I'm sorry . . . But it 
was really nothing serious; it was just . . ." And that 
can take twenty minutes. 

Those^snatches of time do add up. 

They also subtract— from time spent with a hus- 

"We never had a conversation after the babies came, 
Elizabeth, I swear it. I'd come home, honestly, with 
things I felt I wanted to talk over, tell you about. But 
by the time you finished feeding Troy and Mary, I'd 
had two martinis and was out of the mood. By the 
time they were in bed, there'd been so much noise 
and confusion around the house that I just felt I 
wanted to be left alone. By that time, I wasn't even 
sure I wanted to talk to you. Earlier in the evening, 
yes, but with all the interruptions ... it was like 
living with a servant who's on call twenty-four hours 
a day." 

Or fifteen. 

I still don't quite believe fifteen hours, but, as Dr. 
Isbister goes on to explain, it is a lot of work: 

"Think of the woman who has two children under 
two," Dr. Isbister writes, "and often even three- 

and four-year-olds need lifting. Think how many 
miles that woman runs, looking to see that those 
children are not in trouble. Think of the constant 
mental strain of being on the alert— always listen- 
ing, always ready to run, always half expecting an 
emergency . . . Think of the time needed to dress, 
wash, supervise homework, take children to 
school or lessons, take baby for a walk . . ." 

That's all in addition to cooking, cleaning, laundry, 
and errands, by the way. Dr. Isbister adds, though, 

"Now, it really isn't quite as bad as it sounds, 
because, except for the mothers of young chil- 
dren, we are not all working under pressure. We 
can pause now and again." 

Except for the mothers of young children? Except 
for the mothers of young children? Now, just how 
does one get to be the mother of older children 
without first going through the "mother of young 
children" phase? 

What happens to the girl-mother in the meantime? 
To her interest in life? To her sense of sheer fun? Will 
it survive daily exposure to all that child-created 
tension? Sometimes not; some mothers of young (or 
older) children don't laugh very easily or very sponta- 
neously. If you or I as outsiders don't notice this, 
there's one person who does: her husband. To the 
question, "How has your wife changed since you had 
children?" there was one answer I got all the time: 
"She used to be more relaxed; she used to be a lot 
more fun ..." That was certainly Elizabeth's hus- 
band's feeling. 

Of course the problem is lessened if you use 
day-care centers. But that "constant mental strain of 
being on the alert" occurs just as easily in the 

And finally, according to Dr. Isbister, the mothers 
of older children may pause "now and again." Now 
and again? Now and again a mother may pause to 
think her own thoughts, read her own magazine, 


experience her own sensations, live a touch of her 
own life? Now and again ? 

No wonder Hegel said the birth of children is the 
death of parents. It's just too bad somebody a bit 
more popularly known didn't say that. Maybe Eliza- 
beth would have read it in high school and thought 
about it, balancing it against the Ladies' Home Jour- 
nal's point of view. But that didn't happen. She had 
her children; and they enforced a confinement to the 
home and subservience to routine that was all-absorb- 
ing—and life-denying. 

Oh, but hasn't the blender changed all this? And 
spray starch? And Enfamil pre-packs? And the vac- 
uum cleaner? 


"Even with all the labor-saving devices," Betty 
Friedan points out in The Feminine Mystique, "the 
modern American housewife probably spends more 
time on housework than her grandmother . . . each 
labor-saving appliance brought in a labor-demanding 
elaboration of work." (Emphasis mine.) 

"Housewifery," she concluded (that's her word for 
all those house, child, and garden tasks that produce 
sparkling rugs, rompers, sinks, and sofas) "expands to 
fit the time available." 

With small children in the home, women invariably 
stay in the home. A dayful of hours is available. They 
fill these hours scouring, sewing, waxing, polishing, 
dusting, changing, using dishwashers and dryers, elec- 
tric mixers and vacuum cleaners. Those wives who 
recognize and resist or resent these tasks (like Eliza- 
beth) may feel guilty; to ease this feeling, they may 
complain about the difficulty of the tasks they 
haven't done. But calling attention to these things can 
cause conflict with their husbands. 

Do child-raising and housewifery always cause these 
unfortunate results for a housewife? 

I don't know. I know girls who say they're happy 
with it. Housework can be creative, they say. But 
then, I don't know, and they don't know, what they 
might be doing otherwise. Even if a housewife finds 
"creative" house tasks (baking bread; redecorating; 


hobbies like ceramics and gardening) isn't she still 
restricting her environment, and her contacts with 

One exception. A very attractive gal of about forty, 
with a teenage daughter. This wife is out all the time, 
but not at supermarkets and ceramics stores. She's 
into everything, usually bubbling with stories of 
bearding supervisors in town board meetings, con- 
ducting press conferences, trying to talk Lau- 
rance Rockefeller out of money, conducting protest 
marches on draft boards. Her daughter, Sally, and 
Sally's friends, say she's the only mother they can 
talk to. The reason is obvious: she's into the same 
world they are. And she can help the girls with their 
boy problems without reverting to "when I was 
young" story-relics, but with a cool, "Well, if I got 
the community committee to invite the Exuma 
group, we should be able to figure out how to get 
Howard to take you to hear them . . ." approach. 
She's still in the world; she still knows what it's all 

But could you really consider her a housewife? She 
is a definite exception, to my experience (and to 
Betty Friedan's). Usually, it seems that getting out of 
the house and into the world requires too much 
initiative. It takes vision to see these things to do. 
Too often, when her child is very small, a housewife 
gets into a pattern of just housework; and the pattern 
is a strong one. Even after her child is older, she may 
not see the Sierra Club or other community projects; 
her vision is tuned instead to the dusty shelves, 
kitchen counters, and unplumped pillows. House- 
wifery expands to fit the time available; she spends all 
day housecleaning. 

And that does nothing for a girl. 

We all take our cues in life from environmental 
prompters. Put a girl in a fashion house among 
designers and models and she will become chic, 
stylish, aware of the cyclical changes of that quality 
called "taste." Put that same girl in a progressive law 
office, and she will become aware of the patterns of 


our social ethics and aware of the inequities of those 

Put her in a house amidst bassinet, bottles, diapers, 
diaper pails, Lysol, Electrasol, playpen, playthings, 
crib, back-pack, carry-all, Endust, waxer and vacuum 
cleaner . . . and what will happen? She has to deal 
with all those things; those items have to be kept 
straight, clean, organized, or track of. And it all will 
have to be done again soon. Soon there will be more 
dishes to be loaded, more things to be picked up, 
Junior to be changed again. Might this make her feel 
almost . . . mechanical? Might it make her feel less 
interesting than before? 

My friend Laura summed it up very simply. "You 
know, when you stay at home all day, you feel 
different," she told me once. 

"How?" I asked. 


I would not have believed that Laura could ever feel 
dull. She's one of the wittiest girls I've ever known. 
Her husband, Greg, is far from being easy to live with, 
but she always handled him beautifully. Often, if he 
complained about something petty, she'd simply ig- 
nore the complaint and start chatting lightly about 
something else until he got over it. 

But after she became an at-home mother, she didn't 
have as much to chat about. She began to respond to 
his complaints, and there was a general air of tension 
between them. ("When Greg comes home, we give 
each other this look that says, 'Well, are we going to 
fight tonight or aren't we?' ") 

Even little things could cause fights. One day Greg 
brought a friend home for a drink. The way Laura 
told it, as she was getting the ice, she heard him show 
off one-month-old Gloria briefly, then say, "You'll 
have to excuse the mess in the place, Dan, but you 
know how it is with a kid." And they both gave a 
little laugh. 

"I could have thrown the ice bucket in his face," 
Laura told me. "The apartment was not a mess. Good 
Lord, with all the time I spend cleaning, it should win 


a national sanitation award. And it's not as though 
her teethers and things were strewn all over; they 
never are. There may have been one teether on the 
coffee table; there may have been one blanket on the 
arm of a chair. That's all. The diapers and towels were 
stacked, that means neat, by the bassinet. What does 
he expect, that you put a baby in a closet when 
people come over? And when I heard him apologizing 
like that, I thought— well, what's more important to 
him, a perfect apartment or his child? And when he 
called her a— a kid, I did not like the sound of that. 
Gloria is not just 'a kid.' She is our baby. I was so 
angry I barely said one word while we had our drinks. 
I'm sorry, but how do you make charming noises 
after a put-down like that? And believe me, we really 
had it out when Dan left ..." 

Now, you have to understand that before Gloria 
was born, Greg used to complain about Laura's 
housekeeping a lot. (I think I said Greg wasn't too 
easy to live with.) And Laura's reaction was a good- 
natured quip ("Well, you see, I was frightened by 
housework when I was little . . .") that smoothed 
everything over. 

That changed. 

Laura's role, after she had Gloria and quit her job, 
was home-centered, baby-centered. Therefore, any 
criticism of the apartment or the baby was a personal 
affront that couldn't be tolerated. 

Greg and Laura have a different marriage, and it is 
not a better marriage for the addition of a child. At 
this point, it is Laura who has changed, is changing. 
She's more thin-skinned and quick to get angry at real 
or imagined slights. I think she's coping with what 
most new mothers have to cope with: physical work, 
loss of image, lack of novelty, loneliness . . . 

She's not as close to Greg as she once was. 

Since a mother is with a baby all day rather than 
with her husband, she is more aware of that baby's 
needs than she is of her husband's needs. She knows 
the baby's schedule for feeding, changing, cuddling, 
and check-ups. How can she possibly know that her 
husband has had such a terrific strain at work today 


that he needs one hour of complete silence between 6 
and 7 p.m. How can she know that he just lost an 
account at 3 p.m. and could really use a night out as 
an ego boost? The baby's needs are simpler, and she's 
in more direct touch with them, and the baby is small 
and helpless, so it's almost inevitable that baby's 
needs come first. 

A husband can see his wife's devotion to the baby, 
and it's pretty for a while. (Usually for at least one 
month.) His wife exhibits new qualities: concern; 
motherliness; responsibility; maturity. 

But there's a catch. These new qualities may not be 
adding on to the qualities that attracted him to 
his wife in the first place. They may be displacing 
those prior qualities: freedom; humor; impulsiveness; 
youth. Before a husband's eyes, the girl he married 
gradually disappears and is just as gradually replaced, 
by a mother. 

Those changes are mental. There are usually physi- 
cal changes that interact with the mental and emo- 
tional shifts. The physical changes may result from 
the physiology of childbirth or from simple neglect; 
and they do not always happen. But very, very often, 
girls become less attractive after having a child. 

Some new mothers are not upset by this; they may 
have never felt comfortable displaying themselves as 
visual feminine creatures anyway. Pregnancy and 
motherhood can be a way of withdrawing from 
competition— or of putting oneself into a different 
competitive field. Mothers are not expected to be 
quite as attractive as young girls. They're to be 
compared to other mothers, not adolescents. (The 
catch here is that their husband's taste in femininity 
doesn't always change with his wife's figure.) 

Lots of men maintain a nice pose, though, a pose of 
"I like the way you look now better, honey," or, 
"Sure, you're just as beautiful as ever." That can be a 
combination of guilt and concern for a wife's feelings. 
In plainer words, there can be some degree of hypoc- 
risy involved. In still plainer words, those husbands 
may be lying. 

A case in point: Once, attending a teachers' conven- 


tion with a girlfriend, I met some friends of hers, a 
husband and wife who taught in Annapolis. The four 
of us had lunch together. This man's wife was 
expecting their second child, though that wasn't 
obvious yet. "Can't wait till she starts to show," the 
man said fondly. "Nothing more beautiful than a 
pregnant woman." 

That night, he phoned my girlfriend, Naomi, and 
spent half an hour trying to convince her to meet him 
that weekend in Washington. 


"Listen, men grow up on a diet of Playboy," a 
psychologist who treats male sexual inadequacy told 
me impatiently. "It's really such an obvious question 
that you're asking ... it should be obvious to you if 
you'll think about it, that men respond to something 
approaching that ideal, physically. Now, put a woman 
through childbirth and a few things can change. The 
muscle tone of the torso goes. The breasts can sag, 
even if they're small. The legs change. And the most 
serious problem can be prolapse of the uterus. It 
doesn't add up to a good body. The conditioned 
response— good body, sexual arousal— doesn't work 
any more because the body's not there. Doctors miss 
the point sometimes, because after a while, the 
problem can become generalized." 

Yes, most of his patients were men married for 
some time, and virtually all had one child or more. 

How usual was it for men to lose desire for their 
wives after their wives had children? "I can only tell 
you that I'm very busy," he said. 

"Sensual" and "maternal" may be two different 
kinds of femininity, prompting differing masculine 

A photographer who free-lances for several major 
magazines told me the following story: "We were at a 
friend's house, a bunch of us guys, planning a bache- 
lor party for the boss at (X) magazine. We were at 
Bob and Madeline's, and somebody said, 'Well, OK, 
we go to a topless place. We find a topless place. 
That's all there is to it.' And Madeline was kind of 


sitting around taking all this in and not saying much, 
and she decided to be cute and she said, 'Fine. I'll go 
along and dance topless for you.' 

"Rob really let her have it. He said, 'You know, 
honey, when we were married, at first, I'd have been 
jealous at that. But after three kids, you can go ahead 
and dance topless if you want to. Nobody 'd want 

"She handled it pretty well. She just said, 'Well, 
pardon me while I take off my clothes, and we'll see,' 
acting like it was a joke, and she went and got more 
ice. But it practically ruined the whole project as far 
as I was concerned; all I could think of was that she 
was probably in the kitchen, crying. I really don't 
understand it. Rob's just not that kind of guy. Or at 
least he used not to be." 

No, probably not. But then Madeline has changed, 
too. And while I'm not trying to defend her hus- 
band's attitude, I'd like to do some thinking about 
what lies behind it. 

His attitude seems selfish and shallow: "You're not 
pretty anymore, Madeline." But there could be more 
to it than that. Physical changes usually mean per- 
sonality changes. And there are several qualities 
(some frivolous, some of more substance) that are 
more generally found in physically attractive women. 
An attractive woman is apt to be confident, and she's 
apt to be fun. She is easily conversational with men. 
All of this, and not just the line of the body, can 
change after children. Judith Viorst has a poem called 
"Nice Baby," which reads, in part: 

"Last year I talked about black humor and the 
impact of the common market on the European 
economy and 

Threw clever little cocktail parties in our dis- 
cerningly eclectic living room . . . and 

Was occasionally hungered after by highly placed 
men in communications, but 

This year we have a nice baby . . . 

And I talk about nursing versus sterilization 


While the men in communications 
Hunger elsewhere . . ."* 

Of course, Mrs. Viorst means to show all this and 
say that it's mildly bothersome but just fine. I'm not 
so sure it's fine, but she does do a good job of 
demonstrating some changes that can occur after 
maternity: a woman's conversation changes; she may 
talk to women more than men; the men in communi- 
cations "hunger elsewhere." That all makes a differ- 
ence to a husband, I think. It matters to him if his 
wife is attractive to other men; he feels good because 
this woman that other men are hungering after is his. 
Wasn't Rob expressing disappointment that Madeline 
wouldn't be attractive to his friends any longer? 

It's possible that she was no longer as interesting to 
them, either. A girl who's suddenly in a new role 
(mother) and in a new body (maternal) may be 
unsure of herself. She may vacillate between super- 
cool and too-flirtatious ("I'll dance topless for you") 
rather than talk naturally with men, from a base of 
feminine self-confidence. 

And while it is true that Rob has not made a 
transition that is required of fathers, i.e., to appreci- 
ate deeper personal qualities rather than the physical, 
how do we know that Madeline has developed any 
deeper personal qualities for him to appreciate? 

You don't automatically become more of a person 
when you become less of a sexpot. 

In fact, loss of personality and appearance can 
coincide. Simone de Beauvoir has indicated that an 
unattractive appearance expresses resentment, is a 
rejection of a husband. (We are not speaking here of 
the woman who has lost torso tone and so forth, but 
of the one who deliberately neglects her appearance.) 
If Miss de Beauvoir's view is correct— if a wife's loss of 
beauty means, "I am angry at you, so I will not be a 
cute young thing anymore"— then husbands are read- 
ing an emotional as well as a physical barometer, and 

* From It's Hard to Be Hip over Thirty. 

they are correct in withdrawing from it. It is a 
rejection of them. 

It is also a denial of the feminine self. So is a 
narrowing conversational repertoire. A shift from 
"black humor . . . the common market . . . the 
European economy" to "nursing versus sterilization" 
reflects another way in which the self is less signifi- 
cant. The self has resigned itself to a smaller world 
and a subservient role and an abandonment of the 
feminine role, to the extent that interaction with men 
is limited if one is talking about "nursing versus 

Interaction with one's own husband can be limited 
if the talk is only about domestic matters, and if the 
wife's image is purely domestic. A husband comes 
home from a diverse, capricious, competitive and 
somewhat exciting world. It is also a flirtatious world, 
but there are men and women in it. Usually the 
flirtations are innocent. But they are stimulating, 
flattering to a husband; and they provide a good 
complement to his own self-image. Entering the 
home, the sight of wife/mother figure just might not 
complement his image of himself as much. And I 
think wives had better realize this. 

Some wives would hotly deny that this is the case. 
They may see motherhood and domesticity as a trap, 
but a nice one. One article by a Redbook reader was 
called, "Why I Like Feeling Trapped." 

"As a bride, I dreamed of travelling and writing 
poetry," the woman wrote. Now, with five children, 
she tells of the "satisfactions" of "scrubbing the life 
out of the linoleum, and toiling twelve times every 
five days up and down three flights of stairs with the 
laundry . . ." 

"My husband understands," she writes. "My hus- 
band understands that I've pushed the baby carriage 
twenty-five miles. When he comes home, he doesn't 
expect Jane Fonda . . ." 

Oh no? 

Oh no? 

I think that after a while a difference in relative 


status makes itself clear to the husband: he's attrac- 
tive to young, single women; and he's additionally 
desirable because he's married, and thus appeals to a 
certain adventurous spirit since he's supposedly "off 

Some married men almost project a challenge to 
these girls: "Can you lure me away from my wife?" 
The girls often try, these girls who travel and write 
poetry; and, whether or not they succeed, they 
gratify the husband's male ego in a way the wife- 
mother at home no longer can. 

But what about the female ego of that wife-mother? 
What is there to bolster it? Is she as attractive as 
before? (In most cases, no.) Is her husband as atten- 
tive as formerly? (Probably not.) Is her work satisfy- 
ing? (If it were, she would feel better about herself; 
and the answer to the two prior questions might be 
yes.) Her work, though, is largely maintenance and 
endlessly repetitive. It can add to her loneliness. 
Lederer and Jackson have written that there are many 
types of loneliness; there is, for one, the loneliness of 
the person who has a limited behavioral repertoire. 
This is almost certainly the housewife-mother. There 
should be creative aspects to child-raising; but the 
fact that so many children grow up so troubled 
indicates that in most households these creative as- 
pects are overshadowed by minutiae and routine. 

It is, all in all, an unsatisfying situation. 

And there is a regrettable sort of affair which can 
grow out of it, as a wife-mother tries to escape the 
loneliness and reassert her femininity. 

Now, I can be talked into the idea that affairs can 
have a place in today's marriages. It can be pointed 
out to me that some affairs are innocuous, and some 
are even positive. 

But it seems to me that if an affair is meant to add 
something to a stable and balanced life pattern, that 
is one thing. If it is meant to compensate for a lack 
within a life, that is quite another thing. I don't think 
the dynamics of compensation are ever completely 
healthy; and it seems to me the example of a young 
mother given in February, 1970 Philadelphia maga- 


zine is an example, and a typical one, of this latter 
type of affair. 

"Jennifer," says the article, "found herself in the 
classic position of the young housewife with too 
many children that she had had too fast, an ambitious 
husband who was out of the house all the time 
furthering his career, and a growing sense of hostility 
and frustration. 

" 'My husband was going to meetings and playing 
golf and having a ball, and there I was stuck in the 
house all the time, with nowhere to go, feeling sorry 
for myself. . . . This was one of my husband's best 
friends, wouldn't you know?' " 

(Yes, it usually is someone who knows her husband. 
Who else, in the all-female world of suburbia, is she 
apt to meet? Except the mailman, the delivery 
boys . . .) 

Summer is a particularly vulnerable time for some 
women, according to the writer of that Philadelphia 
article: "A wife who's stuck at some summer colony 
somewhere with a brood of little kids and a gossipy 
gaggle of other hens while her husband is back in the 
city can find the vacuum intolerable . . . and maybe 
fill it if the right lifeguard or waiter or friend's 
husband comes along . . ." 

On stopping to think, I know any number of 
similarly "vulnerable" young mothers who spend a 
month of the summer at Ocean City while their 
husbands commute out from their Baltimore and 
Washington offices on weekends. "I keep having this 
daydream," said a girl I questioned, "it's almost a 
fantasy really. Every morning before the kids wake 
up, I put on my bathing suit, brush my hair, and go 
walking along the beach, all alone. Walking, running. I 
want some man to suddenly appear and start walking 
along with me, then stop and take off my bathing suit 
and make love to me right there, on the sand." 

Not every young mother would confess to having 
such thoughts; but how many do? 

Another mother confessed to not just the thoughts, 
but to a pattern of affairs. Every year, the week 
before the season opens at Ocean City, she takes her 


children there; while they're being cared for by a 
mother's helper, she meets "an old friend." This has 
been going on, she says, for a number of years. She 
has affairs with other men, too. "Just about anybody. 
It's the only excitement I have. I may be married," 
she said, "I may have children. But I am not dead." 
Trying to feel alive, still feminine; can an affair built 
on that motivation be beneficial? Can a summer affair 
based on boredom ("It's the only excitement in my 
life") and loneliness really bring any meaningful 
happiness, any real change in life the other weeks of 
the year? 
There are other unwholesome compensations. 
Many wives become superconsumers, or super- 
mothers. Having an unsatisfying inner life, they focus 
instead on the outer lives of their children, taking 
them everywhere, buying them everything. 

This overspend does nothing to build love or close- 
ness. "My job," said a Kansas City mother of five, "is 
to keep us exactly enough in debt, about $500 a 
month, so that Jay can't get any ideas about running 
around; I keep it so that he can't afford to." But 
since the husband becomes unable to pay the bills, he 
has a perfect reason to spend even more time away 
from home: overtime, a second job, in order to earn 
more money. The wife counters by increasing her 
level of spending. Not always does this' cycle of 
combat reach the divorce courts; the couple cannot 
afford divorce. But it's not a happy situation. The 
child-centered, overspending mother makes parent- 
hood exclusively material, (bikes, sports equipment, 
records, clothing) and exclusively maternal. Parent- 
hood can't be a shared activity when the husband is 
away from home so much. 
It usually isn't, anyway. 

The saddest attempted compensation is used by the 
woman Dr. A. H. Chapman calls "The Baby Ma- 
chine." The mother feels neglected by the husband. 
Pregnancy, she remembers, focused her husband's 
attention on her (for nine months, anyway). 

Betty Friedan, in The Feminine Mystique, tells the 
story in detail: 


"... the woman with two children . . . bored and 
restive in her city apartment, is driven by her 
sense of futility and emptiness to move, 'for the 
children's sake,' to a spacious house in the sub- 
urbs. The house takes longer to clean, the shop- 
ping and gardening and chauffering . . . are so 
time-consuming that, for a while, the emptiness 
seems solved. But when the house is furnished, 
and the children are in school, and the family's 
place in the community is settled . . . the empty 
feeling returns, and so she must redecorate the 
living room, or wax the kitchen floor more often 
than necessary— or have another baby." (Emphasis 

But each successive pregnancy, and child, further 
entraps her, until finally there is no possibility of 
joining the husband in his world. She tries instead to 
restrict his activities to the tightly-drawn domestic 
circle, too. She creates projects and problems to keep 
him around the house. (She doesn't call the plumber. 
She calls her husband's office to tell him about the 
problem and ask him to come home early. "No, I just 
couldn't get anybody to come," she lies.) 

She nags if he suggests a night out on his own. 

She curtails any freedom he used to have on 

She is horrible. 

"Before the kids came," an East Coast radio an- 
nouncer told me, "I used to shoot a round of golf on 
Saturdays." (He now has eight children.) "May would 
usually do some shopping, have her hair done. Sun- 
days we'd sleep late, have a pitcher of Bloody Marys 
in bed, maybe, just relax. Go for a drive, make plans 
with friends, take in a show, go out for dinner. I 
never minded going back to work on Monday. The 
weekends made it all worthwhile. Oh, and we used to 
take trips, too . . . 

"But anyway, once the kids came, it was all differ- 
ent. Suddenly, I wasn't 'supposed' to play golf any- 
more. I should stay home and fix the hedges. She 
never worried about the hedges before . . ." (But 


there are eight children now, and it is "all different.") 
. . . "Or the rumpus room has to be redone, or the 
walls washed down, or some damn' thing . . . 

"Sundays are a pain. We can't just do what we want 
anymore. Like it or not, we've got to go someplace 
'for the kids,' she says. 'We're going to do this, we're 
going to go here,' because it's something the kids 
haven't seen, you understand. 

Some people would argue that there is a higher 
purpose to this: that sacrificing your own preferences 
in the raising of children is a noble thing. I don't 
agree. I think when you give up too much of yourself, 
you're of not much value to anybody, including those 
you're supposedly sacrificing for— the children. 

The announcer was still talking, about the children, 
about his wife. He was driving me to his house, to 
meet them. "She used to be a wife," he said. "Now, 
she's a general, giving orders, directing traffic. 

"Kids change a woman," he said, in a louder voice. 
"You know, it's funny. Very funny. I used to love 
her." He shook his head, smashed out a cigarette in 
the ashtray of his station wagon. (They have two 
station wagons.) We turned a corner. "This is the 
street," he said. "You'll see what I'm talking about." 

I nodded. But I had been interviewing for this book 
for several months. I had seen what he was talking 
about so often. I was not looking forward to seeing it 



Escaping the Baby Trap: 
Birth Control and Abortion 

"Make love, not more people." 

—Sign in a 42nd Street Office in Manhattan 

The Clergy Counseling Service of Los Angeles has put 
out a succinct recipe for avoiding motherhood: 

1) Say "No," and mean it. 

2) If Step 1 fails, use a contraceptive. 

3) If Steps 1 and 2 fail, the very next day see a 
gynecologist. Tell his receptionist that the matter 
is confidential and that you must talk to the 
doctor immediately. Do not take "No" for an 
answer. Time is of the essence. If you see a doctor 
immediately, he can give you a "morning after" 
treatment— a series of hormone pills. If the gyne- 
cologist tries to put you off, find another gyne- 
cologist the same day. 

4) If you fail to carry out Steps 1, 2 and 3, and if 
you miss your period— then consult a gyne- 
cologist. If you are pregnant, proceed to Step 5. 
(If the gynecologist tries to get you to wait until 
you have missed a second period, you have the 
wrong gynecologist. Find another one immediate- 


5) You now have two realistic options . . . 

a) Phone Los Angeles Clergy Counseling service 
at (213) 666-7600. A recorded message will give 


you a choice of ministers to call, 
b) Write to A.R.A.L., Box 6083, San Fran- 
cisco, 94101. Enclose $5.00. The best current in- 
formation will be sent to you. 

Hopefully, by the time this book reaches print, 
abortion will be easy and open in all states; and that 
foregoing memo, with its ambiguous references to 
"options" and "best current information" will seem a 
quaint reminder of the time when girls had to 
negotiate a maze of underground channels in order to 
obtain an abortion. 

Quaint though the wording may seem by this time, 
that CCS memo does a clear job of mapping out the 
routes circumventing Maternity Highway: 
Abstinence. Birth control. Morning-after treatment. 

All of them will work; but only birth control makes 
much sense. 

Total abstinence is fine for twelve-year-olds. Maybe 
even for seventeen-year-olds. But after a while, "say- 
ing 'no' and meaning it" is not very much fun, and 
not very good for you, either. If you don't believe 
that, read Freud or somebody and find out how a 
neurotic personality can be traced to sexual repres- 

Besides, sexual activity is good for the heart, ac- 
cording to one doctor I talked to recently. (He was 
not being facetious, by the way.) It would seem that 
in good-for-you exercise, such as jogging, the idea is 
to stimulate the heart rate to something like 142 
beats per minute. Guess what happens during sex? 
148 beats per minute. 

But in more total terms, a girl or woman of a 
reasonable age should be allowed to experience the 
sensuality of which her body is capable. I'm not 
arguing for total sexual license. Simply, I think a girl 
or woman should be free to act on an honest feeling 
of desire for a man. 

Of course the traditional moralists would say that 
such girls, if unmarried, would be haunted by guilt. I 
think it's just as possible to be haunted by regret over 


what is not done as by guilt over what is done. In 
fact, it's more possible — and more painful, and more 
apt to be disruptive of future life. So I have to be 
strongly against abstinence as a means of birth con- 
trol. I don't think it's very realistic, and I don't think 
it's very right. 

Simply taking the Pill makes a lot more sense, as far 
as I'm concerned. It's as easy to take as a vitamin, as 
automatic to remember as brushing your teeth, and 
takes a fraction of the time required to slick on your 
Peach Glace lip gloss. And the Pill as a method of birth 
control can maximize sexual pleasure in a number of 
ways: fear of pregnancy is removed as an inhibiting 
factor; there is nothing to interfere with the sensations 
of love-making; there is no interruption of love-play. 

And the Pill is safe. 

Exhaustive Senate hearings last year showed none 
of the dangers anybody was looking for in any 
significant degree. "The hearings did not uncover new 
dangers in the Pill but merely repeated old stories 
that the public had heard before and that had been 
carefully weighed beforehand by responsible medical 
authorities." That's a statement by Dr. Edward Tyler, 
a leading gynecologist of national repute, in a June, 
1970 Look magazine. 

What were those "old stories?" 

Some dealt with minor side effects. Some girls using 
the Pill developed symptoms of nausea, nervousness, 
mood change, breakthrough bleeding, breast enlarge- 
ment, a slight or temporary weight gain— the symp- 
toms, in other words, of pregnancy. This is not 
surprising. The Pill, by suppressing ovulation, can 
imitate the effects of pregnancy. In most girls who 
developed the symptoms, though, the cause may have 
been psychological. With the exception of the change 
in breast size and sensitivity (which seems to be 
pretty inevitable), gynecologists have found that 
when they suggest to their patients that there may be 
these side effects, the side effects occur, with pre- 
dictable regularity. When the side effects are not 
mentioned, they occur infrequently. 

The "old stories" of blood clots and cancer seemed 


more serious. But no case of cancer has ever been 
attributed to the Pill, during the more than ten years 
that the Pill has been in extensive use. 

And incidents of irregular blood-clotting in girls 
using the Pill are as isolated as they are sensational- 
ized. "The risk of blood-clotting irregularities due to 
the Pill is real," said Dr. Sanford Wolf of the Johns 
Hopkins Women's Clinic, "and it is small. And," he 
emphasized, "the risks must be compared to the 
infinitely greater risks of pregnancy." 

According to Dr. Arthur J. Samuels, who studied 
the effects of the Pill on the clotting mechanisms of 
the blood for four years before publishing his 
thorough study of hormone contraception, the Pill is 
safe for normal users. Dr. Alan Guttmacher, Emeritus 
Professor of Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New 
York, considers the Pill an important health tool; 
and, in Senate subcommittee testimony early last 
year, he compared distrust of the Pill to distrust of 
penicillin. A few people react negatively to both 
drugs; most can benefit. 

In fact, according to information provided by Dr. 
David Shaw of Baltimore's Peoples Free Clinic, a 
woman who takes the Pill has more chance of being 
alive one year later than her sisters who choose to 
have a baby or who choose some other form of 
contraception, assuming a failure rate for other meth- 

When other methods fail, you see, pregnancy re- 

And it is pregnancy which can be dangerous. It is 
interesting that the popular press, and particularly the 
ladies' magazines, journalize about the side effects of 
the Pill and ignore the side effects of pregnancy. 
Where are the articles about melanoma during preg- 
nancy? About heart-valve prothesis occurring during 
pregnancy? About ovarian lutein cysts associated 
with pregnancy? Or, for that matter, blood-clotting 
abnormalities during pregnancy? You have to go to 
the medical journals to find those articles! 

In a 1967 British study— which has no doubt had its 
unrecorded analogs every year in all countries— death 


rates due to oral contraception, abortion and preg- 
nancies were compared: 

Death Rate Per Death Rate Per 
Cause 100,000 Women 100,000 Women 

of Death Age 20-34 Age 35-44 

Blood clots due to use 
of oral contraceptives 

Deaths due to abortion 





Deaths due to complications 14.1 40.3 

of pregnancy and delivery 

Deaths due to complications 2.6 

of the post-birth period 


Add that up. 

If you are between twenty and thirty-four, you 
have about twenty-three chances in 100,000 to die if 
you become pregnant. 

And you have one and a half chances in 100,000 to 
die if you use the Pill. 

Dr. Tyler, mentioned earlier, puts the odds even 
higher: chances of death, he says, are seventeen times 
greater for pregnancy than for use of oral contracep- 

"Those Senate hearings," says one rather angry New 
York gynecologist, "produced a lot of unwanted 
babies who by all rights should be named after the 
subcommittee members. They also produced a lot of 
abortions, and a lot of needless medical risks. And 
what did they find? Essentially, nothing. The Pill is 

Also, as a birth control handbook published by 
McGill University in Montreal points out: 

". . . the Pill can be looked at— in its social context. 
For many women there is no alternative form of 
contraception that offers the degree of effectiveness, 
acceptability, and convenience which the Pill offers. 
Many aspects of social behavior carry a much greater 


risk. Tobacco and alcohol, which society demands for 
its comfort and pleasure, are associated with a very 
heavy mortality and morbidity, and their conse- 
quences constitute a significant part of medical prac- 
tice. From the point of view of the health of society, 
it would be more justifiable to have oral contracep- 
tives in slot machines and restrict the sale of ciga- 
rettes to medical prescription." (Emphasis mine.) 

And, just to add some personal hurrahs for the Pill, 
an informal survey of dozens of girls (some of whom 
have been taking various brands ever since those first 
really high-estrogen jobs came out) shows that not 
only does the Pill do a grand job of preventing 
pregnancy, it also improves the figure, the complex- 
ion, and the psyche. 

Unfortunately, although the Pill is safe; and al- 
though more and more doctors, psychologists, law- 
makers, and even some moralists and ministers (and 
certainly we girls involved) prefer the Pill to saying 
"No," the Pill is not all that readily available. 

It isn't in slot machines. 

Maybe it should be. 

Maybe the Pill should appear right along with such 
other symbols of the onset of feminine adolescence as 
the bikini and the mascara wand. Sex, after all, has 
been popularized to the extent that it's seen as not 
only natural, but casual. Contraception simply has to 
catch up. 

Contraception, instead of being regarded as arti- 
ficial, should also be regarded as natural; and casual; 
and just as right as rain. Or sex. And just casually part 
of a girl's tote-bag equipment or make-up parapherna- 
lia. (Moralists might look at it this way: the Pill 
doesn't have to imply that a girl plans on a wild sex 
life any more than car insurance has to indicate that a 
driver is planning on a lot of auto wrecks.) 

There are lots of casual ways the Pill could be 
distributed. A sixteen-year-old I know thinks there 
should be a compact of them in every box of 
Tampax. (Attention: merchandising people at Kim- 
berly-Clark.) Or, they could be distributed where it 
would really count— as part of the health-service 


facilities at high schools and colleges. And that last 
isn't just a wildly liberal idea of mine, by the way. 
Eda LeShan, author of five books on family life and 
commentator on the family scene for "Newsfront" of 
the National Educational Television Network, says, 
"Birth control information and resources should be 
easily available whenever a teenager wants them— nor 
from his parents but through the school health service 
or the family doctor." She says that in her book Sex 
and Your Teenager, by the way, and the emphases in 
the quote are mine. 

However, as things stand now, you've got to ask an 
M.D. or a gynecologist (or a free clinic) for a 

If you're married, there's no problem. 

If you're not married, there's no problem, if you 
look old enough to be married, and if you live in a 
large city, and if you don't mind lying a little when 
you go to the gyn. 

It works like this: when you see the gynecologist, 
instead of Miss Lynne S. Smith, you are Mrs. Lyle S. 
Smith. And you wear a ring. After he's examined you 
and taken your medical history, you tell him the 
reason for your visit is that you've just gotten 
married, and you want some sort of oral contracep- 
tive. You get your prescription. And, if you want to 
be sure to avoid any billing-by-mail mix-up's, simply 
pay his receptionist as you leave the office. If you 
want to have the bill sent to you, it's probably OK, 
too. You've given a name so similar to yours that the 
mailman will shrug and put the mail for "Mrs. Lyle S. 
Smith" in your mailbox. 

If you're young and not married, though, and if you 
look young and not married, there can be problems. 

Some gynecologists can get kind of moral and 
uppity with you. "I'd rather rely on self-control in 
girls your age," a gyn. of this breed told a young 
friend of mine. 

The Pope Paul VI Award of the Year to him. 

"He'd rather rely on self-control," Jan, who's seven- 
teen, fumed. "What about me? And the way he 
looked at me when he said, 'I'd rather you controlled 


yourself,' made it seem like I was intending to sleep 
with every guy I saw. Self-control. Honestly! I hope 
that joyless bastard runs into nothing but self-eon- 
trolled girls at his next medical convention when he's 
not feeling like controlling himself . . ." 

Usually, especially around college campuses, there's 
a kind of grapevine that will help you avoid such 
gynecologists. And it's important that you do, or you 
waste between $10 and $20; risk some hurt feelings; 
and still have to go to another doctor for your pills. 
(Unless you can convince one of these guardians of 
moral standards that you want the pills to stabilize 
your period or lessen those awful cramps you've been 

I should point out, in all fairness, that many 
gynecologists will be sympathetic and understanding; 
and they will give you the prescription. 

Even the doctors at conservative, upper-middle-class 
Sinai Hospital in Baltimore do not hesitate about the 
Pill. Sinai runs a limited adolescent birth control 
clinic and treats about a hundred girls on a contin- 
uous basis. (Some of the girls are as young as twelve 
and thirteen and are sexually active; that's why I say 
any birth control program that really counts will have 
to be part of the school system, in some way.) "The 
Pill is the only kind of contraception we use," Dr. 
Eugene Kaplan, director of the Sinai program was 
quoted as saying. 

"I give them to my own daughter, so I'd certainly 
not turn down anyone else's, under usual circum- 
stances," said another doctor who works with teen- 

But if you, in your town, can't find a helpful 
doctor, then contact Planned Parenthood, which has 
offices in over 200 major cities, including such unlike- 
lies as Medford, Oregon, and Beaufort, South 
Carolina. (If you live in a small town, write to a 
regional Planned Parenthood office— they're in San 
Francisco, Austin, Kansas City, Indianapolis, Atlanta, 
Philadelphia, and New York— and find out what 
branch office is closest to you.) 

There are also free clinics scattered around. Many 

are run by churches and Women's Lib. chapters (No, 
you don't have to join Women's Lib. or Corner 
Presbyterian in order to use their clinic; they're just 
there to help you) and you won't find any uptight 
conservatism. The free clinics tend to be friendly and 
informal, and mixed in with anything from political 
campaigning by telephone to guitar-group tryouts. 

One, in a basement of a Georgetown church in 
Washington, D.C., has its staff names chalked in on a 
blackboard behind the coffee table (Administrator- 
Charles; Physicians— Denny, Paul, Craig; VD Counsel- 
ing— Gina; Pill Counseling-nCarol . . .) so you immedi- 
ately feel you know these people on a first-name 
basis. And, in a Chicago free clinic, a girl went in for 
birth control counseling and ended up typing stencils 
and answering telephones before talking to a counse- 
lor. That's what I mean by "informal." 

The free clinics, by the way, usually treat between 
50% and 100% black girls, and this raises another 
question: one of race and birth control. Birth control 
is controversial to many blacks, and some would like 
to reject it altogether with the idea that they can 
better fight white oppression with an increased black 

That feeling, though, is by no means unanimous. 
Some see an increasing black population as oppressive 
of itself: i.e., oppressive of such qualities as leadership 
and individuality. Some of the Panthers are scrupu- 
lous about bringing their girls in for birth control 
counseling, according to a Baltimore doctor who 
works in an inner-city clinic. 

And, in a nationally distributed position paper, 
Patricia Haden, Sue Rudolph, Joyce Hoyt, Rita van 
Lew, Catherine Hoyt, and Patricia Robinson, signing 
themselves "Poor Black Women," say the following: 

"Brothers . . . Poor black sisters decide for 
themselves whether to have a baby or not ... If 
we take the pills or practice birth control in other 
ways, it's because of poor black men. Now here's 
how it is. Poor black men won't support their 
families, won't stick by their women . . . Poor 


black women would be fools to sit in the house 
with a whole lot of children and eventually go 
crazy, sick, heartbroken, no place to go, no sign of 
affection, nothing ... So when whitey put out the 
pill and poor black sisters spread the word, we saw 
how simple it was not to be a fool any more . . . 
For us, birth control is freedom . . . Having too 
many babies stops us from supporting our chil- 
dren, stops us from teaching them the truth." 

That letter, distributed through various sources, 
including some Women's Lib. chapters, is a strong 
endorsement of the Pill as beneficial to the black 
girl's struggle for identity, beauty, and dignity in her 

Their letter does not emphasize methods of birth 
control other than the Pill, and I haven't either, 
because the other usual methods have those things 
called "failure rates." Intra-uterine devices, in present 
form, can be expelled, particularly in women who 
have not had children; diaphragms can slip; condoms. 
can break; vaginal foams and jellies are not anything 
most lovers want to bother with at bedtime; rhythm 
is ridiculous (fewer than 30% of all women have 
regular enough- cycles to give rhythm a chance of 
working); and having the man withdraw himself 
before climax spoils everything. (It can also leave you 
pregnant. One or more drops of semen can be 
released before orgasm. And that's all it takes.) 

But some other methods should be mentioned. My 
high enthusiasm for the Pill, and the evidence of its 
safety, are irrelevant to you if you are one of the few 
who should not take it. It might also be mentioned 
that if you are wary of the Pill, that in itself can 
produce minor side effects (notably nausea and head- 
aches) and you should consider other methods of 

As one birth control book notes, any method is 
better than no method; and two methods combined 
are better than one. Although rhythm by itself is 
rather hopeless, a fitted diaphragm— plus rhythm- 
compares in effectiveness to the Pill. The fitting 


procedure takes only a few minutes in a gynecolo- 
gist's office. It is simple, and it is essential— since, 
unless this cervical cap is fitted precisely, it can slip 
out of place during strenuous love-making. 

Mary S. Calderone's Manual of Contraceptive Prac- 
tice rates the condom fairly high in effectiveness. 
Keep the following things in mind, though: 

1. For maximum effectiveness, combine use of a 
condom with rhythm. 

2. Be sure the man is wearing one. 

3. Be sure he has taken it from a small foil or 
cardboard package, not unwrapped from a wallet 
or billfold. (That's because rubbing against other 
things in a wallet can weaken the latex material.) 

4. Don't put vaseline on the condom; fatty sub- 
stances cause rubber to deteriorate. Some con- 
doms, though, come pre-lubricated in a foil pack- 
age. And that's OK; they're lubricated with a 
nonfatty substance. 

5. You put the condom on him as part of the 
sexual foreplay; that way there's no awkward 
break in mood. (And besides, that way you know 
he's got it on.) 

6. Never use the same condom more than once. 
There are other economies. 

Now, of course, condoms can break once in a while. 
But since a condom is worn externally, you can 
examine it afterwards. If there's a failure, you know 
about it. And the advantage of that knowledge is that 
you can get a "morning after" treatment the next 

But this "morning after" business isn't quite as 
simple as it may sound. You don't, unfortunately, 
toss down a pill with your glass of orange juice, and 
that's that. You've got to look up a gynecologist and 
get a prescription for some high-voltage hormones 
that you will take for five days. These prevent 
implantation of the fertilized egg in the uterus,xand 
they bring on your period— whether or not you had 
conceived. This treatment, by the way, is legal in all 


states. It is just on the right side of the borderline 
between birth control and abortion. 

But if there is a chance you've conceived, go get 
these five-day wonders. The cost isn't much: the 
regular cost of an office visit, plus a few dollars for 
the pills. This is infinitely easier than abortion; 
though, because there'll be some mild complications 
(like, you have to take a morning off from school or 
work), you shouldn't count on "morning after" 
treatments as your regular means of contraception. 

Finally, if birth control has been neglected or has 
failed; and if the morning after has passed; there is 
the option of abortion. 

Abortion is a simple operation, and hopefully by 
the time of this publication, it will also be simple to 
obtain— i.e., legal— in all states. At this writing, 
though, laws vary. The California abortion laws are 
liberal (98% of women can qualify under the mental 
health clause in the state law; and you can contact 
California Abortion Counseling Service, Box 73260, 
Los Angeles, for information; or phone Clergy Coun- 
seling Service, mentioned at the first of this chapter.) 
That's if you live in or around California. 

For those in the East, the good news is that 
abortion is fully legal in New York State, and an 
abortion can be obtained with some ease. You can 
call a hospital directly and ask for their abortion or 
pregnancy interruption service. You'll be given a date 
for a preliminary appointment, and you'll have your 
operation about a week after that. 

If you have any problems getting an appointment, 
there are two agencies that will help you free of 
charge: Family Planning Information Service, 300 
Park Avenue South; and the Women's Abortion Proj- 
ect, 36 West 22nd St. These agencies can be useful in 
cutting through procedural snarls, and the Women's 
Abortion Project keeps costs as low as possible and 
actually arranges abortions, not just referrals. 

That's New York. 

And, abortions are on demand, no-strings-attached 
in Hawaii, but only if you live in Hawaii. Otherwise, 
there's a tricky, 3-month residency requirement. And 


that means that to obtain an abortion you'd have to 
pack a bikini and move to the sunny state the day 
after the night you think you became pregnant; get a 
90-day tan; and a just-under-the-wire abortion. 

Laws to legalize abortion are pending in lots of 
states, though, so I guess it gets down to this: if 
you're pregnant and abortion is legal in your state, 
fine. If not, get a few hundred dollars together 
somehow and go to New York or California. There, if 
you work through the agencies mentioned, things 
should be fairly easy for you. 

Just by way of historical sidelight, abortion has 
always been easy for girls with money. It has even 
been quite enjoyable, when combined with travel. 
Puerto Rico and Mexico were always popular during 
the winter. One chic Manhattanite accompanied her 
husband and their friends to their respective suites at 
the Caribe Hilton in San Juan a few Januarys ago; she 
missed just one day at the pool while she had her 
abortion nearby. (Her husband was, it must be ad- 
mitted, slightly upset. "She forgets one pill, and it 
costs me hundreds," he pouted. But she, his wife, was 
pretty. And this inconvenience was merely that: an 
inconvenience, and not a catastrophe.) 

For those who find Eastern Europe intriguing, 
Bulgaria and Hungary offer inexpensive, and quite 
safe, abortions-on-demand. 

So does Israel. 

And England is a real favorite because there is no 
language problem; it isn't necessary to traipse to 
Berlitz to learn to say, "I would like a private room, 
not a semiprivate room," in Bulgarian or Japanese. 
(Yes, Japan was popular, too, especially during its 
World's Fair.) 

Abortion, like most things, was and is easy— and on 
occasion fun— for the rich. 

But most girls who get pregnant and don't want to 
be are not rich. They do not have the easy money, or, 
for that matter, the easy morality that's not unchar- 
acteristic of the rich. They agonize over the decision, 
and over the money. Many of them give birth to an 
unwanted child, or risk an abortion performed by 


unskilled hands, perhaps their own. 

Their reasons vary. 

Many girls and women do not understand the 
operation itself. 

In the future there will almost certainly be instant 
abortions via pills or vaginal injection. But presently, 
according to Dr. Alan Guttmacher's Birth Control 
and Love, there are four medical techniques which 
are commonly used: 

1. Dilatation and curettage (D. and C.) with 
anesthesia. If duration of pregnancy is less than 
three months, the type of operation usually select- 
ed to cause abortion is the D. and C. The doctor 
first gradually widens the cervix (the opening of 
the uterus) by passing a series of gradually larger 
dilators into the cervix. (That's the dilatation part 
of the operation.) Then, with a surgical curette, 
the uterine lining that contains the embryo is 
loosened and removed. Dilatation and curettage 
involves no cutting of any body tissues. 

2) Vacuum aspiration. 

The doctor inserts, through the cervix, to the top 
of the uterus, a very narrow, sterile, hollow tube 
with a single window-like opening near its tip. 
This tube, called an aspirator, is connected to a 
suction bottle. A small suction pump operates as 
the aspirator is passed around the uterine cavity. 
The internal lining of the uterus is gently pulled 
away, and flows through the aspirator and into 
the suction bottle. This operation is simple and 
rapid, usually taking less than ten minutes for a 
skilled physician to perform. 

3) Minute Cesarean section (for pregnancies ad- 
vanced beyond three months). 

By the time a woman is three months pregnant, 
the fetus is too large to be removed through a 
partially widened cervix. If an abortion is abso- 
lutely necessary after this three-month point, the 
fetus is removed from the womb, as in a Cesarean 
birth, with cutting of both the abdominal and 


uterine walls. A stay in the hospital is necessary 

for this. 

4) New method. 

In 1960, a new technique was introduced for 

aborting pregnancies between the fourteenth and 

twenty -second week. A small area of skin is 

locally anesthetized below the navel. A needle is 

thrust through the abdominal wall into the cavity 

of the uterus. The amniotic fluid which surrounds 

the fetus is withdrawn and is replaced with a 

solution which will induce a spontaneous abortion 

in twenty to twenty-five hours. 

With this method, too, you'll spend a night or so 

in the hospital. 

Those are the four most usual means of abortion, all 
of which are completely safe when performed by 
qualified physicians. 

But that's another hangup. If abortion isn't all that 
acceptable where you live, how do you find those 

Please start with this thought in mind: wherever 
you live, there is someone who will help you! It may 
take you a few days, but you can find him. 

In every large or medium-sized city there are per- 
haps a dozen doctors (and perhaps many more than 
that) who will perform safe abortions. 

Other doctors in that city, who do not do abor- 
tions, still know which of their colleagues do. Preg- 
nant women, looking for medical abortionists, usually 
find one by asking several doctors. 

Usually it takes only three or four attempts. 

Very often, too, medical students, interns, or social 
workers employed in hospital clinics are prepared to 
refer you to doctors who perform safe abortions. 

In some cities, there are still organized referral 
services, such as the Clergy Consultation Service. 
Now, there's only one thing about phoning the CCS: 
their lines are nearly always busy. Try very late at 
night or early in the morning, and have a pencil and 
paper handy. You'll probably get a. recording telling 
you the names and phone numbers of several minis- 


ters. Then you call the minister of your preferred 
faith for direct referral to a suitable doctor. 

In addition, the same sources that provide birth 
control services can sometimes aid in abortion refer- 
ral—that is, Planned Parenthood (not all offices, but 
some) Women's Liberation chapters, etc. 

And, during 1971, a unique abortion referral service 
was begun by one chapter of Zero Population 
Growth. From anywhere in the country, you can 
simply dial Libby Smith at (415) 398-6222. When 
Libby or an assistant answers the phone, tell her your 
name and address. In Libby's office is a shared-time 
computer, the Abortion Information Data Bank. 
When given your name and address, AID responds 
with a printout of the physicians closest to you who 
can help you. Libby will mail this print-out to you; in 
return, a $5 donation is requested. 

Excellent information about abortion is also to be 
found in the Pinnacle paperback EVERYTHING 
David Hendin. 

Some women who know very well where to get an 
abortion are deterred by moral considerations. 

But New York's Reverend Howard Moody, who 
founded the Clergy Counseling Service, points out 
that the history of anti-abortion attitudes in the 
Protestant church is rooted in hostility, not rever- 
ence. The Calvinist attitude, for instance, was down- 
right vindictive. Calvinists believed that if an unmar- 
ried girl became pregnant she must be punished. Her 
rightful punishment was to carry before the world the 
permanent mark of her fall: a child. 

Surely we're capable of more humane attitudes 
today, Reverend Moody argues. 

His organization, by the way, has saved many girls 
from being forced to bear unwanted children. CCS 
offices have been known to provide everything from 
low -cost psychiatric examinations (in states where 
those are still prerequisite to abortion) to a list of 
approved Puerto Rican clinics. 

Reverend Moody also speaks of the theological 
bases of the Catholic position: 


"Some priests and bishops would have us believe 
that abortion (therapeutic or otherwise) is a mor- 
tal sin growing out of 'natural law' doctrine; but 
those who know Catholic dogma can testify that 
far from being 'natural law' as old as creation, it 
only became dogma in the past hundred years 
with the interpretation of Pope Pius IX in 1869." 

For that matter, a Catholic priest who quietly gives 
birth control and abortion counseling, and who un- 
derstandably prefers to remain anonymous, had this 
to say: 

"I do not believe that the soul enters the body until 
that body is capable of independent being, until 
birth. Abortion is not, therefore, synonymous with 

A colleague from the same diocese adds: 

"Even assuming that instant animation does occur 
and that abortion is therefore technically, and I 
emphasize 'technically,' murder ... I strongly state 
that murder comes in many forms. An unwanted 
child can be slowly murdered. In an overcrowded 
world, those born into it can murder each other — by 
lack of respect, absence of dignity. 

"Now, certainly the boy who has irresponsibly been 
the cause of a girl's pregnancy has committed a grave 
sin. It is my opinion that the girl who removes herself 
from that dilemma by abortion sins less than the girl 
who would bear a child into frightened, confused, or 
uncertain and unloving circumstances." 

That's from a Catholic priest. 

It might also be appropriate to remember that this 
doctrine of fetal life ("instant animation") was only 
announced in 1869. It therefore depends on yet 
another disputable idea: papal infallibility, or the idea 
that the Pope can't make a mistake. Increasing num- 
bers of Catholic theologians are questioning that idea, 
too. (And, of course, the same liberalization of 
thought is occurring, among Catholic clergy and 
Catholic couples, regarding the issue of birth control.) 

Meanwhile, for women of Catholic, Protestant, or 

Jewish faiths, the fact that there have been, for years, 
clergymen's counseling and abortion referral services 
should be reassuring. 

And, just to complete the survey of religious beliefs, 
eloquent testimony before the Governor of Maryland 
during the abortion hearings here brought out that: in 
Mohammedan lands, it is the Islamic belief that life 
begins in the fetus only after 150 days; neither 
Buddhist nor Hindu theology contains any scriptural 
prohibition against early abortion; and the Shintu 
faith holds that a child becomes a human being only 
when it has seen the light of day. 

The balance of theological thought, then, through- 
out history and including today, has not been 
weighted against abortion. 

There is, of course, the expense. 

Abortions cost money. And there are few things 
that vary more in cost. A physician performing an 
abortion may charge $150, or twice that. With a 
private physician and hospital, rather than out- 
patient, care, it can cost as much as $700. But though 
it's possible to pay more, $700 is really a high price 
for an abortion. 

What about the cost of childbirth? An extremely 
low estimate for that is $1000. In fact, that's unrealis- 
tically low. A year ago, a major women's magazine 
estimated $1626 as the average cost of having a baby. 
(For that kind of money, you could have a week- 
long, abortion-in-England vacation, including first- 
class plane fare, private hospital room, and theater 
tickets every night.) 

But money is an essentially middle-class reason for 
demurring from abortion. In the low-income areas of 
any city, an abortion is available for $35. Or $20. Or 
even $5. Usually, these cheap abortionists use a crude 
version of the D. and C. or the vacuum method. But 
listen. Lacking the precise instruments the hospital 
uses for the D. and C, the $5 and $10 operators may 
insert: knitting needles, coat hangers, slippery elm 
bark, chopsticks, ballpoint pens, artists' paintbrushes, 
curtain rods, pencils, or even telephone wire. And the 
walls of the uterus may be punctured by these 


instruments. Death, from infection, hemorrhage, or 
shock, may occur. 

And as far as the vacuum method is concerned, 
don't get the idea that you can just modify a vacuum 
cleaner. That aspirator they use at the hospital is 
precisely modified to have just the slight degree of 
suction necessary to remove the uterine lining. A 
vacuum-cleaner arrangement might remove the entire 
uterus! Again, death from infection or hemorrhage 
could occur. 

It's easy to understand that the death rates for these 
five-and-dime abortions are rather high. Like, about 
100 deaths per 100,000 operations. 

Now, I talked recently with a woman who does $40 
abortions. She argues with me that that figure is due 
to a very few quacks and incompetents, and that she 
has been performing abortions, mainly on poor teen- 
agers and older women, for nearly ten years without a 
single accident. She further argues that she's pro- 
viding a needed service, and that being an abortion- 
ist—or midwife, as she prefers to call herself— is a 
respectable occupation, at least as much so as a nurse. 

And, even as I was writing this chapter, I heard of a 
lady abortionist, a farm wife, who has also been 
performing cheap abortions for quite a few years, 
with (supposedly) no fatalities. 

It's still not a good idea. 

But because thousands of women still go to obscure 
corners of the city every month (due, no doubt to a 
combination of expensive and busily reluctant doc- 
tors, crowded and bureaucratic hospitals, and just 
plain red tape) I just want to say this: if you go to a 
non-medical abortionist (DON'T. But if you do . . .) 
find out for damned sure that this person has been 
performing successful abortions for a long time! 

Keep talking. Keep talking to the people who told 
you about this abortionist in the first place. Keep 
asking, "And who else? And who else?" And then 
look up those people. 

Follow up on these stories by getting in touch with 
as many girls as possible who've had abortions by the 
person you're thinking of going to. If there are any 


scary stories, that way you'll hear about them. If you 
hear nothing but, "She knows what she's doing; don't 
worry," then maybe she does know what she's doing. 

But I would worry. I'd worry to the extent of going 
to a hospital immediately afterward, even if you live 
in a state where abortion isn't yet acceptable. 

Go to the emergency room. 

Say, "I think I'm bleeding inside and I'm fright- 
ened." And say no more than that until you see a 
doctor. He is required by law, now, to help you, and 
if something did go wrong during your abortion, it 
can be dealt with now. 

But, just one more time: don't go to a non-medical 
person in the first place. I know it's easier, if you live 
in the inner city, than going through the hospital 
rigamarole. But the agencies like Planned Parenthood, 
CCS, and the free clinics are all set up to kind of act 
as a buffer between you and the hospital so that you 
have as little hassle as possible. And going to the 
hospital is a lot safer. (And if you go someplace other 
than a hospital to start with, you just might end up 
there anyway. Clear?) 

It must sound, after all this, like I am in favor of 
abortions, at least physician-performed abortions. 

Not really. 

I don't care how legal or how easy they are; it is still 
easier NOT to need one. I don't care if an abortion is 
as simple as having a tooth pulled. Even so, I'd still 
rather spend my lunch hour somewhere else than in a 
dentist's chair. 

I think birth control is a grand idea; but abortion? 
Well, why not just use the Pill and avoid the need for 

Of course there are various methods of birth control 
that differ from the Pill, in that they are permanent. 

There are five different kinds of female sterilization, 
to begin with: 

oophorectomy (removal of ovaries) 
hysterectomy (removal of womb or uterus) 
salpingectomy (removal of Fallopian tubes) 
tubal ligation (simply tying off of Fallopian tubes) 

laparoscopy (tying off of Fallopian tubes by use of 
a laparoscope, or "light pipe") 

The first three methods, though completely safe, 
are not such a good idea. They have side effects; and 
following the operation, you have to take female 
hormones, because they're not produced automatic- 
ally anymore. 

Tubal ligation and laparoscopy are easier, generally 
inexpensive, and followed by no worries and full 
femininity. With both tubal ligation and laparoscopy, 
you leave the hospital within twenty-four hours; and 
a few doctors are beginning to perform the operation 
on an out-patient basis. 

However, although these two operations are simple 
to perform, it can be difficult to get appointments for 

There's no good reason why; but, evidently because 
they are related to sexual functioning and the avoid- 
ance of procreation, they activate latent Puritanism in 
some hospital staffs, who may fear the censure of the 
community as a whole at fund-raising time. 

Many clinics and physicians have unspoken "quo- 
tas" for tubal ligations and laparoscopics— say, fifty a 
year, or one a week. More than that, they figure, 
won't look good. 

They may operate according to a so-called "Rule of 
120" in order to hold down the number of these 
female operations that are performed. The 120 rule 
works like this: Multiply the woman's age times the 
number of children she has. If the resulting figure is 
120 or more, she can have her operation. 

A friend of mine, a woman who will be thirty next 
month and who has two children, would like to have 
one, but has not been able to arrange it. Thirty times 
two is sixty, not 120. When she's sixty, she can have 
her laparoscopy, according to that rule. 
And when I'm 120, I can have mine. 
However, this is beginning to change, as I'm begin- 
ning to find out, thanks in no small measure to the 
Association for Voluntary Sterlization, 14 West 40th 
Street, New York. I had a very enlightening talk with 


Mr. John R. Rague, Executive Director of AVS, and 
it seems that any couples wanting to be assured of 
childlessness will find it much easier from now on. 

For example: in at least thirty-four states, Blue 
Cross and Blue Shield, as well as state Medicaid 
programs, pay for voluntary sterilization. 

Also: a new Department of Defense policy makes 
voluntary sterilization more freely available to mili- 
tary personnel and dependents. 

And: if you have trouble finding a physician to 
perform the operation, you can just write to AVS in 
New York. They have a roster of over 1600 experi- 
enced physicians, in all states. 

Just by way of a statistic, there will be about 
100,000 voluntary sterilizations in the U.S. this year, 
bringing the total to well over two million. 

The male operation, vasectomy, is increasing fastest 
in popularity. Until recent years, more women than 
men sought the operation (it was they, after all,'who 
were closest to the burden of childbearing). But the 
female operations are more delicate and costly than 

In vasectomy, a small segment is removed from each 
of the two tubes called the vas deferens, which carry 
the sperm to the testicles. The ends of the tubes are 
then tied off, so that sperm cells are not in the semen 
that is ejaculated during love-making— and, the man 
cannot make a woman pregnant. No widely used 
form of male or female sterilization involves the 
removal of any gland or organ; it just seals off certain 
passageways which normally bring sperm and ovum 

A vasectomy takes fifteen or twenty minutes. And 
it's becoming increasingly popular. AVS and many 
urologists are swamped with requests. One physician 
compares the wave of popularity of the vasectomy to 
the sudden and dramatic upsurge in the use of the Pill 
about ten years ago. 

And its effects on sexuality are similar. The Pill, by 

* 10% of vasectomies arranged through AVS referrals in early 1970 
were requested by men in their early 20's. 


freeing hundreds of thousands of women from fear of 
pregnancy, made these girls and women wildly sexy. 
Female sterilization, too, increases a woman's sex- 
uality; and vasectomy releases all a man's virility. 

Arthur Godfrey and Paul Ehrlich are among well- 
known men who, having had vasectomies themselves, 
are enthusiastic about endorsing the operation. 
Though they don't come right out and say that one 
of the benefits is increased sexual enjoyment, others 
do. When I talked to men who'd had the operation, I 
found enthusiasm bordering on the evangelical— and 
that was the reason! 

To give a little scientific grounding to this reaction: 
Judson T. Landis, way back in 1965, reported that a 
questionnaire study was made of 330 couples who 
had chosen vasectomy as a means of birth control. 
The respondents reported great improvement in their 
sex lives following the operation; also, for the entire 
group, frequency of intercourse tended to be stepped 
up. (That article was in February, 1965, Journal of 
Marriage and the Family, in case you're interested in 
more details.) 

Now, the vasectomies referred to in this and some 
other of the older surveys had been performed on 
middle-aged men whose wives had already had chil- 

But Mr. Rague, at AVS, stresses that there is a 
similar intensity of sexuality when younger men* 
who have not fathered children have vasectomies. 
Their follow-up studies at AVS are very thorough, 
and show, in fact, that the popularity of the vasecto- 
my may be increasing most among younger men. The 
basic reason why a man becomes unrestrained sex- 
ually, following the operation, is that the fear of 
impregnating a woman is gone. But to young men 
who are aware and concerned about the world popu- 
lation as well as their own personal lives, a double 
fear is removed. 

By the way, vasectomy and tubal ligation are 
usually reversible operations. That is, should you 
change your mind, you can, well, change your mind. 

But the rates of reversibility far outweigh the 

requests for reversal. For example, studies have 
shown up to 90% reversibility for men, and 65% for 

How many men who have had vasectomies have 
requested reversal? Less than one per cent. Requests 
for reversal from women are slightly higher, but still 
very, very slight. 

Indicating that after most couples do escape the 
baby trap, they like it. 



Beyond the Baby Trap: 
Coping with the Culture 

"And when are you going to start your family?" 
"You live in a Disneyland. When are you going to 
grow up and settle down?" 
"Lucy has three children; why don't you?" 

Escaping the baby trap, physically, is as easy as taking 
the Pill. 

But there are more subtle factors operating psycho- 
logically, factors that can weaken your will about the 
Pill, factors that can undermine your confidence in 
the Tightness of your decision not to have children. 
There are pressures that can make you feel isolated, 
different, even guilty, because you're childless. Pres- 
sures that can tempt you to think, "Oh, it'd be so 
much easier just to go ahead and get pregnant, just 
like everybody else. Then maybe people would stop 
hammering at me." Pressures that can accumulate and 
be responsible for that "forgotten" Pill, that subcon- 
scious "mistake." 

You see, there's a pretty widespread social expecta- 
tion of childbearing that Mark Flapan and Nathanial 
Branden, among others, have spoken of. 

"The great value of advancing civilization," accord- 
ing to Nathanial Branden, "is that we have more and 
more choices over how we will live our lives, rather 
than fewer and fewer. And yet in the most crucial 
and potentially life-denying decision, i.e., whether or 
not to bear children, most people assume that they 


have no choice at all. Most people proceed to have 
children because they accept the notion that they are 
supposed to." 

And Mark Flapan, in a 1969 medical journal, says, 
"Although women are increasingly free to choose 
alternatives to motherhood as a way of life, women 
who entertain the possibility of remaining childless 
become keenly aware of the social expectation of 
childbearing . . ." 
He's putting it rather mildly. 

Bill and I have, for six years, found ourselves 
subjected to all the pressures I've mentioned in 
previous chapters, but aimed straight at us by a 
variety of social sharpshooters. You'll probably find 
it that way, too, for a while, anyway, and especially 
in smaller communities. 

As time goes on, it will be easier. When a variety of 
organizations, such as Zero Population Growth, have 
successfully questioned our national preoccupation 
with reproduction; and when lots of couples in 
Dubuque and Peoria as well as in New York, Miami, 
and L.A. have realized that when you stop breeding 
you have more fun; then maybe we'll have a new and 
valid cultural perspective about children. 

And it will not be up to us, the childless" couples, to 
justify our remaining childless. Rather, it will be the 
responsibility of those who feel they want to have 
children to justify themselves! 

But for now, you've got to cope with an environ- 
ment that's heavy with baby influences, a culture that 
expects you to trade the swimming pool for the car 
pool, the bikini for maternity garb. 

In casual conversations, most people let you know 
that it's just assumed that your childlessness is tem- 
porary. They assume you'll get yourself in a "delicate 
condition" eventually, and they're not always deli- 
cate about asking about it. 

"When are you going to start your family?" asks 
Aunt Helen (and just about everybody else in the 

I was always annoyed by the question. Always. 
Even before Bill and I had definitely dismissed the 


possibility of children, it seemed to me that people, 
asking about such a profound influence on the rest of 
your life, should allow you a decision beyond mere 
timing. The question (and please take note, all Aunt 
Helens) should not be, "When are you going to start 
your family?" but "Are you planning to have a 

There should be a choice, an option. 

Even though you, too, have a perfect right to be 
annoyed by the question, you cannot always dismiss 
the questioner with a flip one-liner. 

Oh, once in a while you can. 

For example, you run into Frayna Loeb, a former 
roommate you never could stand, at a downtown 
department store. She hushes her four-year-old with a 
sharp slap on the hand; complains that her five-year- 
old has ("without permission, you bad boy, Johnny") 
asked some little friends over for the afternoon so she 
has to run home quick to fix peanut-butter-and-jelly 
sandwiches; adjusts her one-year-old in the Toddler 
Tote, saying "Thank goodness this one isn't quite old 
enough to socialize yet"; then breaks off, looks at 
you hard, and simps: "And what about you and Bill? 
Don't you have any children yet?" 

OK. Indulge yourself. 

"Of course not. We're too smart for that." Or, 
"Never! We're having too much fun!" And dash off 
to meet your husband for lunch. 

You and your husband can also use one-liners with 
casual acquaintances and at cocktail parties. 


Question: What's the matter? No kids yet? Don't you 

like children? 
Response: Yes. Other people's. And on occasion. 
or: Yes. And we want to keep on liking children. 

Comment: Lucy and Harry have three children. 
Response: Yes, Lucy and Harry do have their prob- 


Question: No children. But what do you do? 
Response: I'm a wife, companion, mistress, social 
director, planner of menus and reviewer of books 
for the two of us, volunteer worker for the Sierra 
Club and . . . (insert job description or additional 

(Richard J. Margolis reports in the January 10, 1972, 
NEW LEADER, "We continue to discover 'new' 
poverty victims like the elderly Jews of New York, 
whom we had thought were being cared for by their 
children in Scarsdale.") 

* * * 

Question: Don't you believe in giving life? 
Response: I believe in living life. 

Question: Well, you should have children. We all have 
the right to replace ourselves, don't we? 
Response: Of course not. We don't, in all prob- 
ability, have the right to be here ourselves. 

* * * 

Comment: But children are our greatest national re- 

Response: At latest count, this "greatest national 
resource" was found to amount to between sixty- 
five and seventy million children under the age of 
14. Perhaps that is enough. 

Comment: My husband and I really find a lot of joy 

in our children. 
Response: My husband and I really find a lot of 

joy in each other. 

* * * 

Comment: You won't have anybody to take care of 

when you're old. 
Response: Neither will you, I'm afraid. Children don't 

very often take care of old parents. 


* * * 

Comment: Every real woman wants children. 

Response: (smile) Every real woman wants a man. (If 
talking to a woman, I follow this one up by 
glancing in the direction of her husband.) 

* * * 

Comment: There's something a bit unnatural about 

not having children. 
Response: No, there's something a bit unnatural 

about (choose one:) electricity; cars; clothing; 

telephones; typewriters; ties; shoes; chlorine; 

canned or frozen foods; the SST; that nailpolish 

you're wearing; that tie you have on. 

Comment: You two really have a sublimated desire 
for children. After all, you have dogs. 

Response: No, you have a sublimated desire for dogs. 
You, after all, have children. 

But that's for parties. 

What do you do about your aunt, though, who 
nursed your whole family through double pneumonia 
when you were six, and took you to New York for 
your fourteenth birthday, and loaned you an antique 


brooch to wear to your junior prom, and who is just 
living for the day you'll tell her, "I'm expecting." 

And what about your husband's boss, who's terribly 
nice to both you and Bill, has taken you out to 
dinner, given Bill extra days off on your anniversaries, 
and who thinks, since you and Bill are the finest 
young people he knows, that it would be a goshawful 
shame not to reproduce yourselves? 

And what about your friends who have children and 
are suddenly talking of babythings and looking at you 

And what about your parents who feel they have a 
"right" to grandchildren? 

These people can't be put off with one-liners. 

You either have to carry on a delicate and elaborate 
charade ("Well, nothing's happened yet,") or you 
have to explain somehow. The explanations are more 
difficult than the charade, but let's try them: 


She's typical of the high-minded people who think 
large families are religiously ordained. To her, child- 
lessness is pitiful, if not immoral. (Of course, she 
never married, so she escaped the realities and is able 
to continue to view children as ideal.) She draws her 
attitude, she says, from the Bible. "Be fruitful, and 
multiply . . ." is the quote she uses. 

Now, even if your reason for being childless is 
simple preference, I would suggest being able to meet 
Aunt Helen on her own grounds: biblical. Even if 
you're not basing your decision on the Bible, there's 
no reason you can't use it to justify your decision. 

You might point out that the Bible is also con- 
cerned with soil conservation, kindness to animals, 
and preservation of trees; and that fruitfully multiply- 
ing human beings interfere with all of these. 

Overpopulation interferes with soil conservation. 
"Every seventh year shall be a sabbath unto the land 
... a year of rest unto the land," says Leviticus, 
Chapter 25. Try that in a crowded country! Today, 


nations give the land little rest; instead, the land is 
polluted with the immensity of human wastes that 
are the by-products of an enormous population. 

Kindness to animals does not mean giving a pet 
puppy or kitten to a five-year-old. It means, biblical- 
ly, allowing those creatures which God or Nature 
created to live. 
Human overpopulation kills animals. 
"Only moments ago in biological time," (Time, 
June 8, 1970) "the earth abounded with a myriad of 
animals, reptiles and fish . . . But since 1600 when the 
first precise records were compiled, man has butch- 
ered creatures ranging from the abalone to the blue 
whale and the zebra. During the past 150 years . . . 
the rate of extermination of mammals has increased 
fifty-five-fold. If the killing goes on at this pace, in 
about thirty years all of the remaining species of 
mammals will be gone . . ." 

The rather scary "red data book" of the Interna- 
tional Union for the Conservation of Nature and 
Natural Resources lists 835 (!) species that are on the 
brink of disappearing forever. 

Preservation of trees is quite clearly ordered in a 
number of biblical books, Deuteronomy, Chapter 20, 
for example: "When thou shalt beseige a city . . . 
thou shalt not destroy the trees thereof . . . for the 
tree of the field is man's life." 

Dean L. Harold de Wolf of Wesley Theological 
Seminary, Washington, D.C., holds that God sancti- 
fied not only humanity but the whole fabric of life 
("for the tree of the field is man's life . . .") 

Man, by being too fruitful, is threatening the warp 
of that fabric. 

And as we destroy wildlife by cutting down its 
forests, and as we efficiently slaughter trees both by 
chainsaw and sulfur dioxide, and as we build our 
"good for children" housing projects with cancerous 
speed on the cleared land, we might ponder some- 
thing else the Bible says: 


"Shame on you! you who add house to house 

and join field to field, 

until not an acre remains, 

and you are left to dwell alone in the land." 

That's from Isaiah. Chapter 5, 1 think. 

Human beings, left to dwell alone in the land, 
having driven out all other creatures to make room 
for their swelling numbers. That's what's being said 
"Shame!" to. And it's not just a matter of shame, but 
of suicide. For the things on this planet are linked, 
one to the other. Destroying a part can destroy all. 

Why are some of us so interested in birds and 
wildlife? Quite apart from a John Muirian apprecia- 
tion of them for themselves, there is also a selfish 
concern. What happens to them happens to us. Why 
are some of us so interested in the trees? Because 
when "sulfur dioxide poisoning" goes on the death 
certificate of two-thirds of California's ponderosa 
pines, we can't help wondering: when will the first 
hospital write those three words on a human death 

Sulfur dioxide is an industrial by-product; and 
industrialization is a by-product of burgeoning human 

Now, that's a long speech to give somebody who's 
simply said, "Be fruitful and multiply . . ." to you. 
But you can select some points from it. 

Or you might try interpreting "Cast your bread 
upon the waters, and it shall return a thousandfold," 
for Aunt Helen. Bread is a food. Fine. Cast upon 
waters, it returns, multiplied and re-formed, as food 
from the sea. 

But what if, instead of bread, we cast upon and into 
our waters: pollutions, pesticides, oil, the solid sump 
of a thousand thousand industries, mountainous hu- 
man wastes. This, too, returns to us, as banks of 
reeking fish, killed beds of undersea plants, oil-soaked 
and screaming birds, death squared, death times 

And of course those wastes, too, result from over- 
abundant human life. 


There's one more argument, a friend reminds me, 
that can come from a well-meaning aunt: "If God had 
intended for you not to have children, you'd have 
been born with contraceptives. But you weren't. So 
you're going against God and against Nature." 

Well, you see, God and Nature may have intended 
for some of us to have children, for many children to 
be born . . . but let's not stop there: it was also 
intended for many of the children born to die. 

We've messed with that being-born-and-dying sys- 
tem. We've given ourselves Pasteur and penicillin, 
vitamins, antibiotics, and heart transplants. We have 
ingenious systems for completely replacing the blood 
of some defective newborns and for turning around 
the skin on children who are born inside out. (Yes, 
that happens once in a while; the condition is known 
as gastroschisis.) 

And that's not what God intended either. 

What was intended was for there to be a balance. 

And it's to keep things in balance, Aunt Helen, that 
some of us prefer not to have children. 

Maybe you've never even thought of having such a 
conversation. It does take nerve. We get used to 
answering the Aunt Helen's in our lives with soft 
excuses. But a candid talk can be gratifying. Aunt 
Helen, once we explain our feelings, may even under- 
stand. But unless we explain, we can't expect her to. 
After all, when she was growing up, people didn't 
realize what they were doing. Facts about the popula- 
tion explosion and its consequences weren't common 
currency then. And other options for living just 
weren't there. 

Now, with people who are capable of providing 
greater pressure than Aunt Helen, like friends your 
own age who have children, you can use some 
variation of the ecological or personal argument— 

Or, there are some dodges you can use when Sheila 
and Mike come over. 



Mike shows off snapshots of Mike, Jr., when he's 
not showing off Mike, Jr., in person. And Sheila talks 
about nothing but motherhood, Mike, Jr., and the 
new baby, Juliette. 

Your husband can counter the snapshot-showing 
Mike's doing by simply producing something else. 
Snapshots of the two of you are ideal. Or, he can 
simply say, "Hey, that reminds me, I had something I 
wanted to show you," and that "something" can be 
anything, related or unrelated: book, record, maga- 
zine article, latest New Yorker cover, notes on a 
project at work. 

Your conversation with Sheila may be a bit more 
complicated but you can use the same sort of parry. 
When Sheila says something like, "I was never so 
happy as when I was pregnant," you can say, "/ was 
never so happy as last night . . ." (and tell her 
whatever it was you did last night.) 

The Sheila's of our acquaintance won't always let us 
get away with this, though. They often take the 
subject back to pregnancy and even say, "Well, gee, 
why don't you have a baby?" Continue the cop-out: 
"Oh, Sheila, we're just so busy as it is . . ." and 
continue your recital of activities. 

Why avoid an open, honest discussion with Sheila 
and Mike? 

Because they— especially Sheila— are pressuring you 
a bit. And people who pressure you are probably 

"Many of the people who urge (emphasis mine] 
married couples to have children and try to make 
them feel guilty if they do not, are resentful of the 
freedom and enjoyment of life shown by childless 
couples. 'I'm tied down with a life I dislike because of 
my having a family; why shouldn't you be likewise?' 
is what is unconsciously being thought by some of 
the people who are overtly saying, 'Nothing like kids 
to make life worthwhile; you shouldn't be without 
them.' " 


That's Albert Ellis talking there, not me, by the 

If Sheila and Mike really make a big deal out of how 
glorious it is to have children, you can suspect they're 
the ones Albert Ellis is talking about. They're acting. 
And people acting a role ("Happy Parents") can't 
usually relate to a real discussion ("Parenthood in 
Perspective"). So to keep their friendship, just evade 
their urgings rather than explain your feelings. 

Either of the two common reasons for childless- 
ness—ecology or personal preference— can have a neg- 
ative effect on your friendship. Talking about the 
population pressures can imply that they're foggily 
unaware of same or acted heartlessly in having chil- 
dren if they were aware of the problem. And explain- 
ing that you have better things to do with the next 
twenty years of your life can seem, no matter how 
delicately it's phrased, to be condescending. 

This isn't to say that you keep quiet about all your 
activities and projects; of course you talk about these. 
Share all your experiences with them, just as they 
share child-raising with you. The exchange gives 
everybody a slightly better perspective. 

But sometimes you have to be careful, even about 

Dave and Sandy, who have no children and know 
many Sheila-and-Mike's, find that the weeks just after 
vacations can be a bit of a problem. 

"For example," Dave said, "we went on a long 
cruise last November. No particular reason, really. 
Sandy just felt like going someplace glamorous, and I 
love to give her what she wants. We relaxed, got a tan 
before the holidays. Sandy looks terrific with a tan, 
especially since she wears those glittery outfits to 
winter parties . . . Well, our neighbors didn't forgive 
us for weeks. You see, our mistake was, we came 
back too full of enthusiasm about the cruise. And our 
neighbors can take that, in the summer, because at 
least when we come back from the Caribbean, they've 
been to Ocean City. So we can trade stories. But they 
really resented last November. Then, they hadn't 
been anywhere." 


Sandy agreed. "You have to be very careful after 
vacations. But there are a few things that can help. 

"In the first place," according to Sandy, "act very 
glad to be home. That reassures everybody that 
they're pretty well-off after all, since even after a 
fancy trip, you're happy to be back. 

"In the second place, don't tell them everything 
that happened at once. That's hard, because we come 
back with so much to tell. But to people who are tied 
down with kids, it can be a real slap in the face. Just 
mention one thing at a time, and they can absorb it 
better, without feeling envious. 

"In the third place— this might sound silly, like a 
bribe— but do it. Bring back souvenirs for the kids. If 
you bring back little things, as well as just stories 
about Paradise Island and San Juan, it helps make 
your friends more a part of it. They're more willing 
to hear about what happened, and everybody gains 

Sandy, too, believes in being patient when girl- 
friends talk about their pregnancies and their chil- 

In fact, besides passively "putting up with" talk 
about their children's grades and games, you might 
even take an active interest in friends' children as the 
children grow up. 

Bill and I baby-sit once in a while for friends whose 
budget sometimes won't cover both the movie and a 
sitter. And last summer I helped teach an adorable 
four-year-old named Danny how to swim. 

In fact, if I say so myself, 1 have good ideas about 
the details of child-raising, once in a while. Last week, 
for example, a "Sheila" we know complained that a 
gold-star chart she had made to reward her three-year- 
old for washing his hands was just not working. He 
didn't put the stars in the squares, it seemed, so there 
was no steady progress that might have motivated 
him to complete the chart. 

Well, if he doesn't like squares, I suggested, why not 
get a blank cardboard and stars in different colors and 
let him make a free-form design? (That seems to be 
working. But if it doesn't, I have another idea. A dark 


blue cardboard with a half moon, full moon, or 
whatever moon we have this week, and he can arrange 
the stars into constellations. Astronomy as motiva- 
tion for hand washing. Well, that's what the great 
universal abstractions reduce down to, sometimes.) 

The point is, you can take part in bringing-up-kids 
discussions, even though you have no kids of your 
own. Just make a few common-sense suggestions now 
and then. You can also take part in parties and 
outings for youngsters, if you're so inclined. 

Rex and Diane Roupe of Des Moines, Iowa, for 
example, gave an egg hunt in the park one Easter 
Sunday. (Complete with ponies, games, refreshments, 
prizes.) All the children in the neighborhood came. 
"We were up half the night hiding all those eggs," 
Diane recalls. 

Diane and several other childless girls I talked to 
feel that, far from dividing you from friends who do 
have children, the fact that you are childless can 
make you even closer friends. After all, you're avail- 
able to appreciate their children, not brag about your 

That, of course, is an ideal situation; and, though I 
hope it's one you find often, I don't want to paint 
too rosy a picture. With a certain "Sheila and Mike" 
of our acquaintance, a continued friendship just 
wasn't worth the effort. Their pressure on us was 
continual; not an evening with them passed without 
the "Why don't you have your own kids?" questions. 

And Sheila said, "Childbirth is the greatest experi- 
ence and I was happiest when pregnant," once too 
often. And I just decided to say what I was thinking. 

"Well, just what is it you like, Sheila— children or 
pregnancy? What do you mean, you were happiest 
when pregnant? Because of the attention you got? 
Well, you see, I don't need that. Bill gives me plenty 
of attention anyway. But frankly, Mike doesn't seem 
all that intent on you anymore. He talks about the 
kids, sure, but I haven't heard him talk about you 
lately. And what do you mean, childbirth is the 
greatest experience? What about making love with 
Mike? Isn't that just as exciting to you?" 


"Oh, Ellen, there's no comparison," she said. 
"Childbirth is so much more intense. It— lasts so 
much longer." 

"Not for everybody, maybe." 

"No, what I mean is, the aftereffects last longer. 
When you have a baby, it's always there, to remind 
you of how happy you were when he was born . . . 
[Very sad statement, that. Very common, but very 
sad. That brief euphoric happiness following child- 
birth leaves quickly. Hoping to re-achieve it, some 
women, like this "Sheila," become pregnant and 
pregnant again, and pregnant once more, hoping to 
find that feeling again and make it last this time. It 
doesn't work. The only way to improve the man-and- 
woman relationship is to work with those two: the 
man and the woman. Children do not help: they 

"I mean," she continued, "the child is a reminder 
that the two of you went through that wonderful 
experience of childbirth . . ." 

"Well, Bill and 1 don't need reminders of anything, 
really. We don't need to be reminded that we were 
once in love; we still are. And we don't need to recall 
wonderful experiences; we're still having them." 

Following that, Sheila and Mike didn't talk too 
much more to us about having children. Of course, 
we don't see them that much anymore, either. And I 
rather regret that. My only point in telling this story 
is to point up the consequences that complete candor 
can have. 

Now, it goes without saying that some of the 
Sheilas and Mikes that we must tiptoe around may 
not be "friends" in a very real sense. But to set very 
high requirements for friends can be to sharply 
restrict the number of people you know. I think it is 
possible to learn from people without being com- 
pletely like them, (and may be without completely 
liking them). I think you can share ideas and have 
enjoyable mutual experiences without being mutually 

In short, do as I say, not as I did, in that particular 
situation. Have more patience than I did; try not to 


write off the Sheilas and Mikes you know. Co-exist. 
It's possible. 

Now, some couples, probably better friends of 
yours, would also like to see you have children. And, 
unlike Sheila and Mike, they're not acting out se- 
lected scenarios from The Happy Family. Though 
their arguments are sometimes essentially the same, 
the tone of discussions you'll have with them is 
different. They won't push you. They simply would 
like to share something that's been enjoyable to 


Linda has several reasons for having children that 
seem good. In the first place, she says, "I love Henry 
so much, I simply wanted to have his baby. Adopting, 
or caring for other children part-time, simply 
wouldn't have been the same. I wanted the baby to 
look like him." 

I love my husband, too, is the simplest response, so 
much that I don't want to change our relationship. I 
don't want to have any constant demands on my 
attention that would take my attention from him. 

Now, there's another, more complicated overtone 
to her argument. By saying she wants a baby that 
looks like her husband, Linda is expressing a desire to 
feel that the baby is theirs, in a biological sense of 
carrying their genes, and, by implication, their family 
traditions. A desire for a kind of immortality, 
through offspring, is involved. (If having a baby that 
looked like Henry were all that mattered, adoption 
would present no problem. Cooperative agencies will 
place a child in a home with parents who resemble 
the child, physically.) But certainly natural children 
are no more to be counted on than adopted children 
to continue family traditions; the traditions of all 
cultures are changing too quickly. And certainly it is 
just as worthwhile to work to help, and win the 
respect of, the community within your lifetime as to 
count on a hoped-for "immortality" via your children 
in their community, after your death. 


And Linda, too, presents the "childbirth as experi- 
ence" argument. (Everyone does.) Without pressuring 
you, she simply says she can't understand why you'd 
want to deprive yourself of the experience of child- 
birth. You believe in experience, don't you? she asks. 

Of course you believe in experience, is your answer. 
But there are many valuable experiences, some of 
which children would shut you off from. Describe 
honestly any experience you've ever loved or look 
forward to having, whether it's swimming in the 
Aegean or absorbing the music and meaning of New 
Orleans' Preservation Hall; or talking to an ambassa- 
dor, or visiting a Hindu shrine; watching still-wild 
animals roam across a still-free Australian plain; mak- 
ing snowballs on an Alp or making love in a castle; or 
the experience of devoting yourself to making the 
world a better place for Linda's children. There is 
such a wealth of things to be experienced that I can 
get lost just thinking about them. And I cannot be 
convinced, in the face of all the world has to offer, 
that there is anything unique about maternity hospi- 

Yes, Linda says, but don't you want to share all 
these values and delights with another generation? 

We want to share our experiences, yes. We will talk 
about them, and we will write about them. But there 
is a period of at least ten years when the delights of 
children are different from, and in some ways incom- 
patible with, the things we treasure as adults. (How 
many parents have had to coax children to put away 
their comic books and please look at the Grand 
Canyon?) The experiences that you and your hus- 
band will share will be, to some extent, different 
from the experiences Linda and Henry will have with 
their children. Both may be fulfilling. This is the 
important thing: there is no one pattern of fulfill- 
ment as a woman. Linda has found one pattern 
(though it is a mistake, to my way of thinking, to 
consider parenthood in itself as fulfilling; to make it 
so, you must be actively a part of the world your 
child grows up in) and you are finding another. 

And there is no one single experience that is central 

to a full life. Although, to my mind, love-making 
comes close, 1 would not try to convince religious 
celibates, who think differently, of this. 

Linda may also say, "Well, I love life, and so I 
wanted to give life." 

Your answer to that: there are many ways of giving 
life. One of the best is not having children. Too many 
people, as experts have been explaining for the last 
few years, destroy life rather than create it. By 
creating life on a small scale (babies) you can harm 
life as a whole (by drawing heavily on the world and 
its resources to raise those babies). This statement is 
particularly true in the United States. Because of our 
high pattern of consumption, one American child 
consumes (i.e., destroys) as much of the stuff of the 
world as fifty (!) children born in India. 

Henry may quite matter-of-faetly express his feel- 
ing, too. "Well," he says, "I just wanted to have some 
say in how one member of the next generation grows 

There are other ways. You can teach. You can join 
a Big Brother or Big Sister program. You can Send-a- 
Kid-to-Camp. You can support a Navajo Indian child 
through a charity, open your home to an inner-city 
youngster, or contribute to a scholarship fund. You 
can help with open-space and urban recreation proj- 

Furthermore, it may be somewhat naive to think 
that parents have a lot to say about how their 
children grow up. Kahlil Gibran wrote, "Your chil- 
dren are not your children ..." and it is true. Parents 
don't raise their children, when you get right down to 
it. The world does. Maybe you and your husband 
prefer working with the world. 

The point is, if Linda and Henry are really friends 
of yours, you'll understand, and accept, each other's 
point of view, and that's that. That's the difference 
between Linda and Henry and the Sheila-and-Mike 
type. Linda and Henry are not compulsive about 
forcing you to convert to their point of view; they 
just want to make sure you know and understand 
that point of view. 



And what do you say to Mr. Ellis, who takes you 
both to lunch and dinner whenever he can, listens 
with enthusiasm to every project you get involved 
with, and just digs you kids so much that he and his 
wife think it's unthinkable for you to think of not 
having children? 

On first hearing of your decision, Mrs. Ellis will ask, 
"No children? But what are you going to do for the 
rest of your life?" 

This answer is individual; you simply tell her what 
you plan to do. Or maybe your answer is that you 
don't know yet, in specific terms, but you just want 
to live in the world with your husband and be a part 
of as many forces in the world as possible. 

"Well," Mr. Ellis coughs, "you can still do a lot if 
you have kids, not everything, maybe, but a lot. And 
it just seems kind of a shame not to have kids, as nice 
as you two are." 

"Well, we can't really see it that way," your 
husband explains. "In fact, it's kind of a shame to 
have kids. They'd be growing up in such an over- 
crowded society, where it would he so difficult to 
have any individual recognition. We just don't feel the 
need to contribute to the overcrowding. In fact, we'd 
like to see a trend to not having children. Why 
shouldn't the United States, leader of living stand- 
ards, lead the way to a really good quality of life, by 
stressing just that: quality and not quantity of popu- 
lation. Raise fewer children the next generation; and 
raise them better." 

"Oh, you're overemphasizing that overcrowding 
thing. It's all a matter of distribution; plenty of room 
in Nevada." 

"Well, it's not a matter of people and square feet. 
It's a matter of people and resources. Right now, 
we're spending the planet's capital, you know— burn- 
ing the fossil fuels, using up the air and water." 

"I'm not saying you should contribute very much 

to it; we didn't. You could just have one child, like 
we did." 

"Well, you see, Mr. Ellis, I would feel sorry for that 
child. What kind of world would it grow up in? It 
bothers me, to think of a baby growing up in a 
society that's so filled with compartments, catego- 
ries—and restrictions. 

"Maybe there's no getting away from the restric- 
tions; and maybe some of them are even good, but 
they bother me. Have you read about the government 
files being kept on hundreds of thousands of people? 
Supposedly, these people are potential threats, but 
some of them have just signed one peace petition. 

"Now, I don't know. Maybe it's necessary to keep 
tabs on troublemakers. Maybe if they'd had more of 
that in '63, Kennedy wouldn't have been shot in 
Dallas, because they'd have known about Oswald and 
nabbed him. But it all smacks too much of Brave New 
World to me. And it all gets back to numbers, doesn't 
it? More people have fewer freedoms. A baby born 
today would have to face a lot of restrictions. And I 
just couldn't feel right to bring a child into that kind 
of world. I know / wouldn't want to grow up during 
the next twenty years, and I don't think you would, 
either . . ." 

"Well, then, if people like you, who feel that way, 
don't have any children, you're selectively breeding 
out of the race people with any sensitivity to freedom 
and the nature of the individual." 

"Let's hope not. Regardless of how insensitive the 
people of this generation who have children are, if 
there are fewer people in the next generations, a new 
sense of the individual can be acquired. Maybe people 
can feel like human beings again, instead of automa- 
tons . . ." 

"Maybe," Mr. Ellis responds, "maybe." 

But you may have to go through a similar dialog 
every few weeks or so. 



This is tough. 

Telling your parents that you don't intend to have 
any children is so difficult, in fact, that I know at 
least a dozen girls (some married as long as ten years) 
who just haven't been able to do it. 

"To her dying day, Mother will just have to think 
we tried to have children and couldn't," one girl told 
me. "You see, if I were to try to tell her that we 
don't think it's necessary, that we don't see any 
reason for having kids— well, there's no way, just no 
way to do that. That would be knocking down the 
only thing she did do with her life. She devoted 
herself to raising us; she had no life of her own. I 
intend to have a life of my own. But I just cannot tell 

Another girl also avoided an explanation to her 
parents, but had an interesting and constructive ap- 
proach that added to their lives immeasurably: "What 
my folks really want is to do a certain amount of 
living through grandchildren. Well, we try to let them 
share our lives as much as possible, especially when 
we do something that's new to them. For example, 
we got it into our heads once that we'd go to an 
opera opening. I bought a simply— well, I can't find 
words to describe that dress. But you see, I'm pretty 
casual, usually; I keep shortening my college Pendle- 
ton's and wear them to work and to parties, and this 
was a real change. 

"It was a black and copper print, like a French toile 
mixed with a bit of Beardsley, with an immense 
copper belt. And we had a great time, and I spent 
about an hour writing my folks about it, and his, 
telling them everything from the story of the opera, 
to the conversations we had at intermission, to the 
way every third guy in the foyer kept pretending to 
be blinded by that copper belt . . . oh, and our 
pictures were taken by a news photographer. That 
was unreal; we laughed after he went away and tried 
to imagine what would go on at the society desk the 
next day as they tried to figure out who those 


unknown socialites were ... As a matter of fact, we 
ended up calling the paper, since we were fairly sure 
they wouldn't run the picture, and they gave us two 
large prints. 

"But, anyway, when we do anything out of the 
ordinary— which we do, quite often, we write about 
it, at great length. That's what I mean about sharing 
our own life with them. It's a good thing to do; and I 
even think you have an obligation to do it." 

Another couple has been trying an even more direct 
approach for some time— seven years, in fact. 

"You know, our parents are still asking us vague 
little things like 'Well, Donna, are you two going to, 
uh, settle down soon?' or 'Are you going to have any, 
uh, news for us one of these months?' 

"Now, by this time, they have to know we're not 
interested in the suburb-and-station-wagon thing. But 
we don't say so. We've been saying 'No, we don't 
think so,' or 'No, not a sign,' for so long it's gotten to 
be a joke between us." 

The girl I was talking to got a little sad. "You 
know," she said quietly, "they even have tried a little 
bit of good-natured bribery. Dad said, 'Yes, I've really 
got the business where I want it now. Got it built up 
to something I'd be proud to pass on, you know what 
I mean? Got some trust funds for college set up, no 
names on 'em yet . . .' " 

That is a pathetic speech and must indicate a great 
desire for grandchildren. Yet, as Dr. Robert Gould 
pointed out in a New York Times article last year, 
what such men ultimately want goes beyond grand- 
children: they want to rekindle an interest in life, a 
sense of importance. 

The girl I was talking to evidently realized that. 

"Meanwhile, what we're trying to do is encourage 
them to get out in the community and find some 
interests, so they won't feel so empty, and won't 
need grandchildren. I clip the 'What's Going On' 
section of the newspaper sometimes. 'Boy, I wish I 
could get to that show,' I'll say to Mom. 'If you make 
it, would you tell me what is was like?' 

"Maybe that will take hold, after a while. And I'm 

truly serious with that technique, you know; I would 
like to hear about some of the things I can't attend 
afternoons because of work. Dad's proving more 
malleable than Mom, actually. He took our suggestion 
and joined a golf club, and that led to all kinds of 
things. He ran into an old friend who was running for 
city office, for instance, and is doing part-time can- 
vassing for him and having a ball! 

"So maybe the questions will stop, after a while, 
because they'll have their own interests to talk about. 
And when they stop asking the questions, then we 
can start considering answering them ..." 

One 35-year-old bank officer was lucky. "Our prob- 
lem was solved," he told me, "when my parents tried 
reverse psychology with us. They started saying, 'We 
certainly think you and Rita are right not to have 
children. This certainly isn't a world we'd bring 
children into, either.' 

"Then they'd go on with all the ecology arguments, 
just to really play the role and show how thoroughly 
they understood our feelings. 

"What happened is that they really began to see it 
our way! So, we're lucky, as far as my parents are 
concerned, anyway. Now, if they'd only get together 
with Rita's folks . . ." 

I found very few couples who told their parents, 
straight out, of their decision not to have children. 
Bill and I did, of course. (But then, we had to; I was 
writing this book.) We could have anyway, because if 
your parents are actively involved in their own life, 
and therefore not dependent on you, you can be 
honest with them. 

The problem is also eased if there are other grand- 
children in the family. ( Your problem is eased, anyway; 
of course it's tough on your brothers or sisters who 
had the kids.) 

But there usually will be a strong problem with 
parents. Parents vary. Some may say nothing, and yet 
you know they'd be thrilled if you were to become 
pregnant. Other, more aggressive parents may be 
quite direct with verbal pressures or even bribes. 

And there's no denying it feels good to please 

people. If you know that your parents would be 
ecstatic, you may even wonder if you have a right to 
deny them that happiness. After all, they raised you 
with certain implicit assumptions, one of which was 
that you would have children of your own. 

Ultimately, though, you cannot live your life to 
please other people, whether they are neighbors, 
people you work with, or the man and woman who 
raised you. If you and your husband know that it is 
right for you not to have children, then don't be 
afraid to face the culture with confidence, if not with 
complete candor; and expect it to accept you. 

Eventually, it will. 

It is easy for us to see, then, that we do not want to 
spend our lives baby-raising. But at least, for those 
who choose it, the road is well-marked: Enfamil. 
Gerber. The PTA. 

To live a less-usual life style is an unpredictable 

Once we reject the maternal role, we are out of step 
with the girls in the station wagons at the super- 
markets. We are on bikes or in, perhaps, a Fiat 
custom convertible. And do not count on finding us 
at the supermarkets. We are elsewhere. We are free. 

But where are we? And what are we free to do? 

Anything, of course. But the complexity of choices 
can bewilder us into inertia. What do we want to do? 
Devote ourselves to a charity or a politician? Teach? 
Write? Take modeling lessons, study the guitar, or 
learn Japanese floral arranging? Or immerse ourselves 
in the business and personal emotions and competi- 
tions of the urban office-city? 

And where are the guidelines, the media models, 
and the columns of helpful hints for us? The maga- 
zines are filled with spoon-feeding, fight-stopping, 
koffee-klatching supermommies. But where do we see 
ourselves in the magazines? Where do we see wives as 
women— attuned to men, rather than children? Where 
do we see a wife reading something that will enrich 
her conversationally, teasing her husband into an 


evening of needed extravagance, or tempting him into 
bed as he's changing for dinner? 

Such examples are rare. 

Partly because of this lack, the next three chapters 
have been less than easy. It is always easier, I think, 
to reject an established life style than to define a new 
one. And a reaction to this book might be, "Well, she 
shows at great length why having children may be a 
bad idea; but she's a bit wavery on just what you're 
supposed to do otherwise." This may be true, and I'm 
sorry if it is. But I am twenty-seven years old; I 
haven't had a lifetime of experience in living. My 
husband and I are still in the process of finding 
directions for ourselves. 

But I will try to show what I've done with my life 
without children, to this point at least. And, perhaps 
of more value, I'll describe what some other girls and 
women without children have done, mixing in facts 
about their jobs, some of their thoughts about life, 
love, men and marriage. 

I think all the stories have some value, though you'll 
find some contradictions. (Karen Kramer of New 
York states firmly that men are more interested in 
ideas than meals; Carole Ann Tucker of Los Angeles 
states just as firmly that marinades or a good bernaise 
or hollandaise are ideas in themselves.) On the basis 
of your own tendencies and your own husband, you 
will make your own amalgam. 

All the stories do demonstrate, though, that beyond 
the baby trap lots of doors are open. 



Jobs, Careers, 
and a Few Other Things 

You're nobody till somebody hires you. 

I've had a zillion jobs. I've taught, typed, modeled for 
a total of one ad campaign, acted in a total of one 
play, and filled out accident reports for an insurance 
company. I've fund-raised for political candidates, 
volunteer-worked for consumer and conservation 
causes, and catalogued books in a library. What else? 
Nurse's aide, Kelly Girl, file clerk, secretary, recep- 
tionist, and cocktail waitress. 

I was rather a bust as a cocktail waitress (I kept 
eavesdropping on the interesting tables and giving 
slow service to the dull ones); and filling those 
car -accident forms gave me a lasting skepticism about 
the automobile. 

But other than that, I've liked everything. And I 
think there's value to a wide variety of working 
situations. If you aren't intent on building a career 
record within a particular field and if there's no cause 
to which you're ready to commit yourself complete- 
ly, then I think you should switch jobs every so 
often, too. Without the stimulation of new circum- 
stances, I think it's possible to start doing your 
job— and everything else— by rote. 

Many of the girls I talked to agreed. 

One job changer is Karen, who's had an interesting 
string of Manhattan secretarial situations and an 
interesting marriage to artist Gary Kramer. 


Karen and Gary met in Florence. "I was on a 
study-abroad program; only that summer I wasn't 
studying. My roommate and I," explains Karen, "had 
a place overlooking a busy Italian street, where kids 
who knew kids who knew us would just drop in. 
Average occupancy was about ten. 

"But that afternoon I was alone, trying to sleep in 
spite of the noises from the street. There was a knock 
on the door, though, and the guy said, 'Hi. I know 
Dorothy. Can I come in?' 

"We talked. He was from Chicago. I was from New 
York. He was studying under an art scholarship. (I, as 
I said, wasn't studying.) We talked some more. He 
said he'd like to paint me. I asked what his name was. 
'Gary,' he said. 'I'd love for you to paint me,' I said. 
'I'm twenty years old,' I added. 'Why did you tell me 
that?' he wanted to know. And of course I couldn't 
tell him the reason was that he looked twenty-seven 
and I was barely eighteen. 'Oh, I don't know,' I said. 
'When are you going to paint me?' 

"Well, that's been a long time ago— eight years, as a 
matter of fact. After that summer, Gary stayed in 
Florence and commuted to see me in Rome on 
weekends. At some time or other, he said, 'Will you 
marry me?' and I said, 'Yes,' and it was such a natural 
assumption that we went right on with our conversa- 
tion. Which was about art, by the way. 

"It's hard to condense the essence of a marriage 
into a few words," Karen continued, "but there were 
two things that were important to us: each other and 
Gary's work in art. Not necessarily in that order. In 
fact, Gary said that art was 51% of his life, and I'd be 
the other 49%! 

"We came back to New York and got married; he 
taught art history while I finished the dreary final 
hours for a B.A. I'd often be tempted to cut a class 
and spend all afternoon on a gourmet dinner, to show 
what a domestic little wife I could be. But to an 
artist like my husband, food is always less interest- 
ing than an idea. And he was far more fascinated by 
details of tudor history and archicture than in 
details of what-trouble-I-had-chopping-up-the-bread- 


cubes. Trouble was, his teaching wasn't leaving him 
any time for painting. It got to be pretty clear that 
if he were really to develop his style and skill, that 
teaching job had to go. And it did. 

"This," she interrupted herself to emphasize, "is to 
me one of the important reasons for not having 
children. Marriage was never meant to put a man 
under continual obligation. I think that a man has to 
be free to do what he wants with his life. Gary 
wouldn't have been free, if we'd had kids, because we 
would have needed two incomes. That would have 
been terrible. 

"As it happened, the matter was quite simple. He 
quit teaching. And I guess this brings me to what I've 
been doing. My first job, which I took approximately 
one second after graduation, was for a funny, two- 
man film company, where there was nothing to do. I 
mean nothing. No correspondence, no customers, no 
salesmen, no files, no films. Just two men in an office 
waiting for something to happen. 

"What did I do? I read about two novels a day. And 
my most crucial task was serving them coffee con- 
stantly. At one point, I decided I wasn't being 
sufficiently challenged and left. 

"My next job was doing research for a television 
film series on middle-class Black America. The series 
never made it. But the insight I gained into how an 
emerging society organizes itself (almost strictly on 
the white model, in this case) was more fantastic than 
any ten college soc. courses. And of course I shared 
all this with Gary, and we both learned a great deal. 

"The really devastating job was as researcher for the 
Johnson Commission report. The hours were a panic. 
Some days I'd be home all day; other days, out at 7 
a.m. Or, I might be phoned at midnight and told, by a 
New York radio station, 'The log your supervisor 
requested will be available for the next hour only.' 
And Gary would be out hailing a cab while I grabbed 
clothes and a notebook." 

Karen has also worked for several New York pub- 
lishers and is in the process of learning something 
about art herself: she's becoming a potter. 


"All of the jobs I've had have kept both Gary and 
me in touch with different things happening in the 
world ... we talk for hours every evening, just hours. 
Gary gets out himself, of course, but the fact that he 
hasn't had to, on a regular basis, has left him free to 
develop his style and skill as an artist." 

Gary, according to Karen, "began as an abstract 
expressionist" (I hesitated as I was taking notes, 
thinking, "Oh yeah, that's when you can't recognize 
the object . . .") "but he's moved into a unique sort 
of realism. It's vivid, alive, full of surfaces; and those 
surfaces can put the focus of a painting in front of 
the canvas. Actually that's continuing a trend that 
started with cubism, but Gary's taken it about ten 
steps farther than anyone else . . ." 

Karen's enthusiasm was so high that I wasn't keep- 
ing up with her. There are only phrases, from this 
point, in my notebook: "As far as texture, he could 
be compared to Pollock," ". . . shares with Stella a 
concern for a colored field . . ." 

Does he sell? 

"He will, when he's ready. He's had some grand 
offers, but nearly always turns them down. Two 
exceptions: no, three. A famous actress' husband has 
one of his paintings, and a big Texas art collector, and 
our plumber. Gary was home when the plumber came 
to fix the sink; and the plumber said, 'Gee, that's 
great! I love it!' And so he now owns a Gary Kramer 

"One of the things Gary and I value very much," 
she said, shifting to another thought, "is our freedom 
to be just with each other, to do just what we 
want . . ." 


The word was used by almost every couple I 
interviewed. The childless couples' ways of living 
showed enjoyment of it; the couples with children 
regretted not having it. 

The Kramers have it; another artist-couple I inter- 
viewed did not. In fact, the first thing said when I 
told them I'd like to talk to them about their 
marriage was, "Well, it'd be nice to go out once in a 


while, when we wanted to, instead of arranging for a 
sitter two weeks in advance!" 

In the case of this second couple, the girl, pressured 
by her mother not to take birth control pills, became 
pregnant and gave birth to twins five years ago. (She 
has taken the Pill since.) 
"If we had the money," she added. 
This couple, too, lives in New York, but they talk 
about their life and their jobs without enthusiasm. 
Both were promising artists; now, just plain poverty 
and the pressure of caring for two young children are 
destroying her potential (by her own admission) and 
cutting into his. "Who feels like painting," she says, 
"when you come home from the nine-to-five? Who's 
got the time, with all that's got to be done around 
here? I've all but given it up." 

Her husband sells his paintings, when he can. "He'd 
better," the wife says, "or we'll be walking in bare 
feet and have pediatricians' bills for wallpaper." 

He also drives a cab; in fact, he usually manages to 
drive by their apartment about eight to take the 
children to nursery school and drop off his wife at 
her office job in the east 70's. 

This second girl, like Karen, has had a variety of 
secretarial jobs. Unlike Karen, she doesn't share very 
much with her husband. "What do we talk about? 
The kids, the money, and that's it," her husband said. 
She doesn't talk to him for hours in the evening; she 
evidently has nothing to say about however she has 
spent her day. 
And that's regrettable. 

There is a lot of variety within the secretarial 
experience. Any office is rich with human feelings 
and activity: office personality rivalries; account com- 
petitions; good guy-versus-bad guy management strug- 
gles; love, rejection, and the expense account. Modern 
civ. condensed to four floors. 

But may be you can get involved in all this, really 
get into it and learn from it, only if you're not 
pressured all day thinking about things that need to 
be done when you get home to the kids. (There will 
be those who disgaree with that as a generalization. 


But sometimes it is true. Virginia Satir spoke of the 
principle underlying this in another context: "The 
human situations that exist in every contact can be 
meaningless if the wife is worried about the kids and 
the sitter.") 

Karen, and the second girl, could have worked in 
the very same office. And Karen would have been 
open to experience; the second girl would not have 
been. Karen would have taken home a lot from her 
job; the second girl? Probably nothing. 

A girl named Marcia finds her secretarial job fasci- 
nating, partly because she has an interesting reason 
for working where she does. 

Marcia is twenty-six, wildly gorgeous (I guarantee 
you, if you were just to visualize what you'd like to 
look like, the result would be Marcia), moderately 
liberal, and she likes to play her boss-secretary scenes 
in conservative companies. 

Right now she's with the biggest copper company in 
the industry, where it seems she's changing some 
people's minds about metals, defense, and big govern- 

She does not believe in job switching. 

"It's too easy to leave a job before you learn 
anything, or know anybody," she says. "Let me give 
you an example. There was a man, at the job I had 
before this one, who always seemed so withdrawn, so 
lonely. He was about forty-five. He worked in the 
stock room, always got to work and left on the 
minute, said 'hello' and not much else. After I'd 
worked there two years, he started talking to me one 
day, about the Indians of the Southwest. Turns out 
he's really an expert, quietly writes articles for a 
natural history magazine and is a blood brother of 
one of the tribes. Now that's one person who'd have 
been just a cipher to me— one person I wouldn't have 
known— if I'd left that job after six months. 

"But I'm talking as though getting to know people 
is my reason for working. For some girls, it is. Not for 
me. I think you have to have some overall cause, 
overall reason, for whatever you're doing. Here's how 


it is with me. For some personal reasons— like a 
brother who got killed in '68, and Wally could have, 
too; he was in the service then— I'm just plain anti- 
Pentagon. And I look for a boss who's pro-Pentagon. 
And I try to change his thinking. 

"Both Wally and I are quiet reformers. We don't 
organize rallies and carry banners or live in 'Look 
how pure we are' communes. That's just not our 
style. I like comfort. I like pink soap, instant foods, 
and running water." ("I once found her the only 
cabin in northern Alberta with full bath and shower," 
Wally interrupted.) "And I like fashion." 

She looked very fashionable. Clouds of brown hair, 
artfully cut. Eyes by Eve of Roma, face framed by 
fringed leather that was either a necklace or a mini- 
serape: it reached to the shoulders. The pants suit was 
fluid, India-ink-black, and I had the feeling I'd seen it 
in Vogue or someplace. 

At this point, Wally interrupted her. "We go to 
Washington to do some informal lobbying, once in a 
while, just looking up our congressmen and talking to 
them. Marcie divides her time between Capitol Hill 
and the Georgetown shops! One time, in fact, a new 
designer boutique was opening when we were there. 
The owner saw Marcie, and offered to give her any 
outfit, free, if she'd be seen around Georgetown that 
night and tell anybody that asked her where the 
outfit came from!" 

"Of course I took him up on that!" she laughed. 
"But listen, sure I like clothes. But I also like to be 
able to vote. And believe me I'd like more of a choice 
about who I vote for sometimes. Wouldn't it have 
been great, two years ago, to have had a choice 
between a businessman and a poet, instead of be- 
tween two politicians'? I'd have loved a choice be- 
tween Rockefeller and McCarthy . . . And I'd like a 
few other things, too. I'd like to have some say about 
some controls on the Pentagon budget, and about 
whether that stupid, insane SST is going to be built. 
And the day I decide that scrapping my Puccis will 
stop the war machine, I'll start wearing blue jeans." 


"In the meantime," Wally said, "if there's ever an 
award for the best-dressed political radical, Marcie 
will get it!" 

Marcia left to go back to her office shortly after 
this, just as I was about to ask specifically how she 
got her ideas across at work; but Wally explained. 

"It works like this. One of the things she's supposed 
to do at work is read all the papers every morning. 
The Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington 
Post, all the big ones— and clip anything, article or 
editorial, that has any possible bearing on the copper 
industry. Then she gives her boss a rundown as he has 
his coffee. Well, she slips other things into that pile of 
clippings. All very casually, of course. 

"She'll say, in a very innocent voice, for example, 
'Mr. Simms, you were talking about cost-increase 
limits yesterday; I thought you might be interested in 
this article . . .' 

"Then she gives it to him and hits the figures. For a 
Pentagon electronic system, research costs were $3 
million in '67, $80 million in '68. Procurement costs 
on the same system: $190 million in '67, $524 
million in '68. 

"Then she'll say, 'Is that sort of cost increase 
typical in the military? And what are the real effects 
of that? And are there any controls over that?' and so 

"There was one bad scene, though, when her boss's 
supervisor came in one afternoon cursing about Ful- 
bright. And Marcia talked back to him, said Fulbright 
was a good man. And the supervisor swallowed his 
teeth and said Fulbright was too critical of the 
administration, and anybody who was that dissatis- 
fied should leave the country. 

"And Marcie said it was impossible to leave the 
U.S.; there was nowhere to go. 

"And the big guy started naming, Russia, France, 
Africa, England . . . And Marcia said, 'No, that won't 
work. There's no other planet, and what the U.S. 
does affects every country on this one. England, for 
instance, is getting very upset because DDT from here 
is falling in their rain.' 


"And the supervisor harrumphed but didn't have an 
answer for that one and just came out with the 'Love 
it or leave it' line again. Then Marcie said, in that cool 
little voice of hers, if you can believe it, 'That is an 
idiotic statement.' And the big boss swallowed his 
teeth again, and she went right on, 'If you love the 
country, you've got to stay and try to make it the 
best country possible, and that is exactly what Mr. 
Fulbright is trying to do.' 

"I guess the discussion went on for a while, but she 
was kind of upset. We joked that if she got fired, we'd 
write to Senator Fulbright and tell him why! 

"But she wasn't fired. One of the girls told her the 
next morning that after Marcie left, her boss took up 
her side of the argument, against the supervisor. We 
celebrated that next night; we went to Bianci and 
Margarita's in the Village and toasted the partial 
conversation of Mr. Simms." 

("We celebrate funny things," Marcia had told me 
earlier. "We may forget each other's birthdays, but 
we'll go out to celebrate when the Senate passes a bill 
we like. We feel, like it's our world, all of it. We're 
part of it. You've got to get more excited over a 
possible nuclear disaster averted than over your 25th 
birthday . . .") 

I wanted to know if Wally tried to do the same 

"Oh, sure, I was with COM* in the Army. And sure 
I try to operate the way she does at my office, too, 
but with less result. See, you've got to keep in mind 
that it's kind of unexpected when a girl like Marcie 
starts talking politics. The shock element alone has 
some value: it shocks people into shutting up until 
she's said what she wants to. She really gets inside 
people's heads. And I think it's great, really great." 

I think that Marcia may have found something. 

One of my favorite writers, Jo Coudert, has cau- 
tioned against finding an "easy" job, because nothing 
is more exhausting than easy work. She goes on to 
point out that the only truly exhilarating work, that 

* Concerned Officers' Movement. 


which can turn your whole life up to 100 watts, is 
work that is demanding. Look for a job, she says, 
where you will be overworked, not underworked. 
Take a job you don't think you can quite do; that 
way you'll overreach your capacities and grow. 

Well, it's not always that easy to find a job whose 
requirements per se are absorbing and demanding. 
But you can set yourself a demanding task in human 
relationships. And that's what Marcia has done. 

If you have a job where you're really doing some- 
thing, like Marcia, and getting across ideas you believe 
in, you can stay with it a long time. 

Teaching you could stay with a long time. 

I could have, anyway. 

Only in teaching do you get an intimate, meaningful 
contact with a broad cross section of the younger 
world; the chance to guide young minds in their 
growth of awareness; the excitement of probing 
contemporary problems and literary themes; and 
summers off. 

You get a few other things, too. The fun of 
suddenly devoting a day to folk singing. (If you teach 
English, you work this into the poetry unit; if you 
teach social studies, it falls under current events; if 
you teach math, you work in percentages: "What 
percentage of the records played today involved 
social issues? Political personalities?") 

And you get to know kids. And that was surprising, 
in some ways, to me. I was twenty-two when I started 
teaching; and my students were fourteen. And of 
course I knew what they were like. They were: 

a) fashionable 

b) super-cool 

c) conversationally sophisticated 

d) sexually liberated and politically aware 

e) socially intelligent and turned on 

f) all of these 


My idea that they were politically aware and all that 

was reinforced one morning and shattered that same 
afternoon. Third hour, a student brought in an 
internal Army memo about how the war casualty 
figures should be "modified" for the press. And that 
student gave a stirring speech about the implications 
of that memo . 
Very good. 

Later that day, I launched another class into 
Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. Discussing 
the evils of the 19th century that might have driven 
Captain Nemo from land, someone mentioned "slav- 
ery." "Well, what was so bad about slavery?" some- 
body else asked. 
This was an integrated classroom. 
And don't ask me how I avoided a riot, because I 
don't remember. But there are fast ones like that that 
you have to field sometimes. And I'm convinced, by 
the way, that one difference between teachers and 
the rest of the population is that teachers think at a 
slightly faster rate. 
Usually, we have to! 

It was dawning on me, about this time, that not all 
teenage girls were as with it as I had thought. Some of 
them seemed so confused and bewildered by how 
they were treated (or ignored) by the boys that I 
started a book on the subject. But more about that, 

A point I'd like to make right now is that if you 
teach, or if you have any job that gets you home 
hours before your husband, don't spend all that time 
house-working. If you do, the danger exists that by 
the time your guy gets home the freshest experiences 
in your mind will be Problems of Mopping or How I 
Cleaned that Wall. (Is that what a man wants to hear 

I will admit that there are times when things have to 
be done. But get things done quickly, and that's it. 
Honestly, any apartment I've ever lived in (and we 
have a fairly large one now) can be cleaned in half an 
hour, tops. It helps if you have a basic distaste for 
housework, as I do, so you speed to finish with it; 


and it also helps if you keep in mind that certain 
things can always be put off. (Mopping floors, for 

Do something else. 

Change into something chic. 

If you don't have anything chic, go shop for it. 

Phone a friend. 

Put on a record. 

Make yourself a drink and read a book. (That's 
usually what I did, when I wasn't trying to find a 
reasonably priced pre-Columbian sculpture at one of 
the private galleries on Charles Street, or bicycling 
two miles to buy some Brie for after dinner.) We have 
always subscribed to ten thousand magazines and 
every book club in existence, and that is probably a 
good idea. I always found that Bill enjoyed a precis of 
Strawberry Statement, On the Beach, Prince of 
Foxes, Feminine Plural, of Love Story along with the 
hors d'oeuvres. Really, it's a good prelude to how- 
was-your-day discussions. 

Now, at one point during my teaching career, I 
changed my 3—5 p.m. routine, though, because I 
began that book I mentioned. 

It might not have occurred to me to write it had Bill 
not written two books, which I had typed and which 
taught me that a non-fiction manuscript consists 
mainly of examples of whatever it is you are trying to 
say, examples hopefully compiled and presented in a 
coherent fashion. 

Even before we had any idea that book would be 
published, a certain change in me pleased both of us. 
I suddenly had some entirely different things to talk 
about when he came home. And frankly, it was fun 
to say, when he asked if I'd talked to Frank and 
Irene, or read the Atlantic, "I just haven't had time to 
do a thing; I've been rewriting a chapter . . ." 

And because I truly hadn't had time to do anything, 
we'd often end up cooking dinner together. And that 
was good, too. Unless you're Julia Childs, seasoning a 
marchand de vin sauce for half an hour is a little 
tiresome. By yourself, anyway. But shaking stuff into 


the butter, flour, stock, and wine, with your husband 
there, and nibbling on the vin before you put it in the 
marchand de is something else again. Try it; it's fun. 
The book I was writing was published. And then 
(not that I'd ever been particularly displeased with 
the way we lived) everything entered a new dimen- 
sion, and we were living in a way 1 really liked. 

I like knowing people in different cities. I like 
travel, and I like a telegram somewhere on the tour 
saying, "Congratulations; your show last night was 
good." I like going to department stores in Cleveland 
as well as in Baltimore, and meeting young people 
there. I like doing a TV show once a month or so, 
even when I'm not on tour. (Last week was a cooking 
show, "Parsley, Sage, Janey and Love.") I like riding 
the Powell Street cable car between appointments in 
San Francisco; and I like, for that matter, long 
distance phone calls, even if they spell work: another 
interview to do, another article revision required. 

But it is worth it to me— all of it. And it is all 
something I would not have if I had had children. 

I'm not trying to imply that only women without 
children can have interesting jobs and lives. Letty 
Cottin Pogrebin wrote a book the same year I 
did— and she has three children. And, while Helen 
Gurley Brown, who has no children, is an example 
par excellence of the successful career girl, there's an 
agency president a few blocks from Helen's office: 
Mary Wells. And Mary Wells has children— two, I 
think. My sister, who does not plan to have a family, 
works as a scientist; but in a nearby laboratory a 
mother of twins is working on similar projects. I 
could name parallels, also, from nearly any office. 

But that's really beside the point. Though some 
women with children have rewarding jobs and careers, 
most do not. And of those women with children who 
do not, many would— if they did not have the 

A close friend of mine through high school, Sharon, 
was brighter and more talented than I. She got more 
writing awards, more roles in the school plays, than I 


did. Sharon, though, has three children now. We met 
for coffee when I was in Illinois last winter, and she is 
not completely happy. 

For her, the role requirements of motherhood have 
extracted too high a price. She has lost the social 
involvement she valued; she never had a chance for 
the career she wanted. She watches me on television 
shows sometimes, and she would like to be on those 
shows herself. She could have been. Or she could have 
easily become a reporter, as did another friend of 
mine, Gail Blaisdell, a girl who is, with reason, almost 
totally satisfied with her life. 

Gail's job has given her an enviable range of experi- 
ences. She's interviewed the McCarthy kids, political 
figures, and local celebrities. She wrote a fantastic 
and moving story on Vietnam war widows (after a 
minor mishap; some incorrect editorial instructions 
sent her to the wrong funeral, at first.) 

"The exposure to the things you write about is 
more exciting than the actual writing process," ac- 
cording to Gail. And that's evident from hearing her 
talk about some of her assignments. 

Once last winter, she and a photographer left at 3 
a.m. to go duck hunting on the Eastern shore of 
Maryland. ("It was forty below zero; the ice on the 
bay kept scraping the sides of the rowboat as we went 
out to the blind. It was so cold I could barely get the 
questions out. But I learned from the mayor of 
Annapolis how to shoot a gun, talked politics and 
told jokes with a couple of lawyers, helped retrieve 
the photographer when he fell out of the blind trying 
to get a shot, and TALKED REAL LOUD whenever 
any ducks came around! Fortunately, nobody got 
any . . .") 

Another assignment: report on the only clock fac- 
tory in the country where grandfather clocks are still 
crafted by hand. "After a beautiful drive and some 
fascinating conversations with the people in the small 
town where the factory is, I rushed home. Paul fixed 
dinner, since this story was a rush job. The deadline 
was the next day, and I worked till 2 a.m. trying to 
finish it. As Paul was driving me to the newspaper 


office the next morning, though, we heard the news: 
the clock factory had caught fire at midnight the 
night before, just as I was writing the story! It was 
almost completely destroyed ..." 

Gail recently interviewed the poet Elliott Coleman; 
and, when I talked to her on the phone earlier this 
morning, she was involved with another sort of 
project— condensing a twenty-nine-page report which 
began, "Because we deal with data in the aggregate, 
there are few cases posing any severe or significant 
limitations on the variables we can study simultane- 
ously without using up too many degrees of statistical 
freedom . . ." 

The report concerned urban riots. Gail was ready to 
riot herself when she saw the useless verbosity that 
surrounded the basic issues. 

Yes, there are times when writing can be a bit of a 

However, it can be an exciting mix of the people 
you've interviewed, the books and articles you read as 
you research. The ideas that result make it worth- 
while to me. 

And yet, as far as ideas are concerned, I can see an 
advantage to working in a publishing house or maga- 
zine office. Rather than having to think up, stew 
over, and pound out the ideas themselves, you could 
just be treated to the finished products, in book or 
magazine form. And you'd have an advantage over, 
say, the magazine reader, because you'd see the 
wealth of material that, due to limited space, never 
sees print. 

That might be even more fun than writing. It 
definitely seems so, when you talk to Carole Ann 
Tucker, who edits Teen magazine. She sees a lot of 
ideas in her work and she channels and directs them 
into one of the liveliest young-girl magazines around. 
And she has fun doing it. 

Carole whipped by the Beverly Hilton to pick me 
up for a lunch date last spring. We weren't quite sure 
who was interviewing whom. She was asking me 
questions for a profile in Teen; I was interviewing her 
for this book. She and her husband Jack have been 


married for some time, idyllically, with no children. 

After a lot of interesting talk about how she decides 
what rock groups to feature and how she answers 
reader questions, I commented that it was perfectly 
clear how she spent her days with no children 
("Actually, I have children," she said, "thousands and 
thousands."), but how, for example, do you spend 
your weekends? 

She laughed. "That depends entirely on the week- 
end. My job extends to the weekends once in a while. 
Last Saturday, for example, Jack and I started for 
Palm Springs at 6 a.m., which is dawn, because I had 
to tape a TV show there. It was a gorgeous drive; we 
sang every song ever written. 

"Then, during the first taping, 1 saw an expression 
on Jack's face that I know precedes criticism. He 
began to tell me, between tapings, why and how I 
should be expressing myself better. And suddenly I 
said, 'Now stop right there, Jack. I don't think I want 
criticism from you, and besides you're my husband, 
how can you criticize me?' And he said, 'Carole, it 
isn't easy, but it's necessary. Now you listen.' And he 
draped his arms over my shoulders, looked me 
straight in the eye make-up and proceeded to give me 
some instructions. 

"Not only was the second taping better, but so was 
my understanding of our relationship. Jack was hon- 
est enough to criticize me, but he cared enough to do 
it lovingly . . . 

"Then we spent the rest of the day leisurely driving 
back, stopping here, stopping there, stopping for a 
two-hour lunch, stopping to look at the ocean and 
talk, talk about the other people on the show that 
day, about the details of our jobs the week before, 
about our plans for the next week. We spend a lot of 
time planning, thinking, dreaming. We forget to talk 
of the mundane. And that's why my job is important. 
If you maximize your work experiences, if you give 
and get from your job as much as you can, it adds to 
you and your marriage. You are not mundane. That's 
important; how can you expect your husband to be 
fascinated by you if you're not fascinating, if you are, 


instead, everyday and dull?" 

A good question. 

"Oh, of course I cook. But even this has to be an 
adventure. We both love good food and wine. Jack 
likes good solid meats (no casseroles!) and I have a 
cabinet filled with spices, so I experiment. Marinades 
and spices are a must. And the meats have to be 
cooked slowly, so there's time for the seasonings to 
be absorbed, and the flavors are fuller . . . 

"And we'll talk while I'm getting dinner, usually, or 
we'll read the mail we've gotten that day, and finally 
sit down, with the candlelight reflecting in the wine- 
glasses—yes, that's every night. There is one thing, 
you see, that can never be routine: and that's ro- 
mance. At least to us, it can't be. As long as it's 
sparked with change and variety within ourselves, life 
is exciting." 

There's "another magazine editor, a bit older than 
Carole Ann, and on the East Coast rather than in 
L.A., who is also childless by choice and who also 
leads an exciting life with her husband. 

I can imagine that it must be a treat for David 
Brown to drop in and see his wife, Helen, in her 
Manhattan office. It is beautiful. Diane de Poitiers 
could have simply removed the phones, tossed a 
velvet pillow on the small satin sofa, and entertained 
whichever of the Charleses or Henrys she was in- 
volved with at the time. 

Helen has evidently decorated husband David's den 
with a similar sensuality. "Everything is comfortable 
and sexy: there's a lot of fake leopard, which David 
likes ... I fix him a drink and settle him down, like a 
geisha . . . then I serve dinner. The atmosphere is 
intimate. There is no one else around. We're free to 
talk, laugh, explore the day, what happened, how we 
felt about it, on any terms we want. 

"We are not interrupted, and I want it that way. 
For real intimacy, perhaps it has to be that way. I 
want no one else around: no servants, no children." 

Actually, along with being the single girl's guide to 
romance and fun, Helen Gurley Brown's Cosmopoli- 
tan is also for the married, childless girl. 


I read Cosmopolitan. 

I have my own ideas about keeping my husband 
happy, but once every few articles I pick up some 
new ideas, and I suggest that you do, too. 

Helen's office is a clue, for example, that Cosmo 
considers surroundings important. (And so should 
you.) They've got decorating ideas that are far ad- 
vanced in the psychology of texture, color, and 
sensuality. And Cosmo, of course, was talking about 
sensuality in the sexual sense long before "J." 

I suggest, for example, that we take advantage of 
articles like "Thirty-two Different Ways to Kiss"— 
because we can. Not every girl who has children can. 
Chapters ago, we talked about image change after 
childbirth: a change from "free romantic girl" to 
"mother," and a change that, if it occurs, makes using 
sex-kitten ideas difficult, incongruous, perhaps ridicu- 
lous. (A girl I know, mother of three, tried one of the 
kisses suggested. Her husband responded, "What the 
hell do you think you're doing, Lois?") 

But that's not our problem. We can give our 
husbands those upside-down kisses. We can eyelash- 
kiss, French-kiss, and kiss all the other ways suggested 
by that article. 

Getting back to careers for a moment, one of the 
things that Helen Gurley Brown has proved is that it 
is easy to blend a career with femininity. 

It's far more feminine to be working in an office 
than to be playing wifey-wife in your house or 
apartment all day. 

The reason is obvious. For femininity to be func- 
tional, there has to be a man around. Your husband 
isn't home during the day. (Hence the term "house- 
wife.") If you stay home all day, you're married to a 
house. I'm unable to see much fun in that! 

But if you're out in the world, meeting people, 
talking to them, having coffee with them, arguing 
with them, playing politics to get a certain office 
project assigned to you, going to lunch with friends, 
picking up a new idea from a co-worker, interacting 
with people (some of whom are men), you are 


keeping your skills as a person, and as a female, very 
much alive. 

This can't help but show in the way you are when 
you meet your husband after work. All day, you've 
been talked to, flirted with, looked at, appreciated, 
seen. And the resulting confidence you feel inevitably 
shows. And your husband responds to this, and his 
response is much different than it would be if he 
came home to a dull little house drudge who had 
forgotten how to flirt and make conversation months 

If you have a job or career, house work doesn't 
seem like house drudgery, by the way. "Our apart- 
ment doesn't take that much care," says Dianne 
Sullivan, who works for NASA in Los Angeles, "and 
I've noticed that work at home seems a hobby to me, 
and I really enjoy it. When you haven't seen your 
apartment all day, it. seems a marvelous place. When 
you haven't had to fix Spaghetti-o's and Kool-Aid 
and peanut butter sandwiches all day, fixing dinner is 
a creative activity." 

There's a difference in your husband's appreciation 
of your housework if you have your own career. If 
you're just a housewife, it's assumed that everything 
is going to be polished, dusted, and perfect. It's 
further assumed that you will serve a perfect dinner 
and bring coffee-and-newspaper afterwards. And a 
husband takes this for granted; and something taken 
for granted may not mean very much. 

But, if you are a girl who has a life outside the 
home, that same coffee-and-newspaper service is dif- 
ferent. If you play geisha to your guy, as Helen 
Brown proudly says she does, it is something you 
choose to do. And it means something to your man, 

Ann Berman, a friend of mine here in Baltimore, is 
a good example of this. She runs two boutiques 
which have grown from homemade jewelry to hand- 
cut English leather boots and coats and the latest 
Seventh Avenue has to offer. 

Speaking of Seventh Avenue, she goes there once 

every few months on buying trips. 

Once, on an overnight trip, she struck up a sudden 
friendship with a group of designers. They all took 
her out: the Ad Lib for cocktails, Serendipity for 
dinner, Yellowfingers afterwards, and dancing all over 
midtown Manhattan till 4 a.m. 

"I didn't know whether to tell Bruce or not. As I 
was getting off the train in Baltimore the next night, I 
was still thinking, 'Shall I tell him? There's no reason 
not to tell him. But there's no reason to tell him. 
Maybe I'll tell him later; no, I don't think there's any 
reason to mention it now . . .' And of course the first 
thing I said after he'd kissed me was, 'Bruce, guess 
what 1 did last night!' 

"And it was not only all right, it was all right! 

"A man, I think," she continued, "has to know his 
wife is still attractive to other men. This is one reason 
a wife needs to work, or she forgets what it's all 
about, and then her husband forgets all about her. If 
she works, she'll stay attractive, and stay interesting." 

Ann will, anyway. 

Staying interesting is one big reason for working, 
but you don't have to walk into a magazine editor- 
ship or a boutique ownership in order to be interest- 
ing. Helen Brown's husband no doubt enjoys seeing 
her in her lady -executive suite at Cosmo. But when I 
was a receptionist, my husband liked to come by my 
office and see me, too, and just talk for ten minutes 
or so, see me as I directed somebody down the right 
corridor. In effect, he was seeing me as other people 
did, and it was not just as "his wife," but it made the 
fact that I was his wife all the more special. 

And a girl named Pat here in Baltimore had what 
she thought was "an enjoyable but insignificant little 
job" as a junior copywriter. 

"But suddenly I was thrown into something quite 
significant. My ad agency took on a candidate for 
governor, and they transferred me to his office for 
two months, where I was the advertising-public-re- 
lations contact for him. / was the one who said, 'Yes, 
he'll be happy to make an appearance at your Rotary 
meeting Tuesday,' and 'No, there's no time for a TV 


taping tomorrow; it'll have to be done over the 
weekend, or next week.' 

"Sounds like being a supersecretary keeping the 
boss' appointments straight, doesn't it? It was. But it 
was more. I've been a secretary before, in different 
businesses. But the talk here was different. It was civil 
rights, state taxes and voting precincts, not stock- 
holders' reports and sales records. And I worked out 
the press releases, then got the releases to the right 
people at the right time. I got to know the newsmen, 
some of whom were friends of my husband. Some 
days, I'd do nothing but drive the candidate and his 
wife to appointments; other days, I couldn't get free 
of the phone. And I went to banquets and danced 
with politicians . . . 

"Oh, and there was one time (this was later, when I 
was with a different agency, working for a different 
candidate) when we were filming a TV commercial in 
downtown Baltimore, and the City Comptroller came 
up to me; we were introduced and we talked; and the 
music for the TV film started; and suddenly he said 
to me, 'Would you like to dance?' And so, in front of 
about a thousand people, there we were, doing an 
improvised polka around the Jacob France Fountain 
. . . and laughing . . . 

"To everybody I know," Pat added, "Hyman Press- 
man is the City Watchdog, the Comptroller Terrible. I 
saw him differently. In working, you get to see 
unexpected glimpses of character like that; and I 
value them terribly." 

Of course, one could argue that if you're at home, 
you get those glimpses of character, too— into other 
housewife-neighbors. But that's rather limited. It is, 
after all, an all-female society. To my way of think- 
ing, seeing men other than the checkout boy at the 
Super-M is important, plus which I think productive 
and cooperative effort prompts more revealing con- 
versation than koffee-klatching. 

Pat proves a point we were making before, too, by 
the way. A girl who helps organize banquets and run 
political campaigns is more feminine and exciting 
than a girl who stays home playing housekeeper. So is 



a girl who addresses envelopes at a political head- 
quarters, like I did. (I got to meet everybody, too.) 

Most girls I talked to agreed that there is something 
intrinsic to the working situation that keeps their 
husbands actively interested in them. Part of what 
attracts a man to a woman is a certain competitive 
spirit. If you really look at it, men want women that 
other men want. And if you're working, your hus- 
band knows that other men are seeing and appreciat- 
ing you. Result: he appreciates you more, too. 

But developing your femininity, and enriching your 
personality, aren't the only reasons for working. 
Money counts, too, for most people, at least. The 
best things in life haven't been free for some time. 
Natural beauty certainly has its price these days (as 
does clean air), to say nothing of food, drink, cloth- 
ing, recreation, and entertainment. 

You have to be free to pick up a bottle of really 
fine Scotch or some really expensive groceries once in 
a while, or an expensive negligee or tickets for a 
hockey game or a concert, just to treat your husband 
to a special evening. If you work, you have some 
money of your own, and the "special evening" 
doesn't have to show its price tag and dissolve into a 
discussion of the budget. 

Work can also guide you to use your leisure time 
well. It's one thing to spend a day reading Heming- 
way, Tom Wolfe, or Rollo May at home. But it just 
works better, somehow, to pick up enthusiasm and 
ideas about what's good, and why, from other people. 

I can still recall snatches of teachers '-room conversa- 
tion that turned me on to Jonathan Kozol and Tom 
Wolfe: ("Death at an Early Age can't possibly be 
telling the truth; there's nobody like that here . . ." 
"Tom Wolfe has something new out . . ." "And 
Naomi's ordered it for the library somebody told me, 
and I don't think that's a good idea at all . . . It's 
about Ken Kesey and literary merit aside, I just don't 
think youngsters should be exposed . . ." "Well, I 
think . . .") 

And after reading the book in question (Electric 
Kool-Aid Acid Test) I not only had my own reactions 


to the book, but a lot of character-revealing reactions 
of other people, too. 

Picking up ideas about books, films, sports, politics, 
music, dress, conservation or gardening, for that mat- 
ter, is a pleasant outgrowth of being paid for a job. 
And that 's a consensus of all the girls mentioned so far. 

These girls, too, would support my husband's 
theory that, "It's the with-it wives who go out and 
have jobs and do things. Wives who stay shut up in 
the suburbs are like presents from Aunt Hattie: not 
too attractive; so you keep them closeted rather than 
on display." 

Two other good examples are Susan Root, a native 
New Yorker who now works in Chicago, and Los 
Angeles' Patrecia Branden. You couldn't imagine 
either of these girls staying home! 

Susan zings around the windy city in a small sports 
car, doing all sorts of interviews for the Chicago Daily 
News, and has been sent on assignment to Rome and 
the Riviera. (At age 23, she covered the Cannes Film 

"There seems to be nothing she can't do," accord- 
ing to her husband, Clayton, who's a treasurer of 
Borg -Warner as well as manager of his own business 
"She wrote a story on changes in the market thai 
ended up on page 1 of the financial section ..." 

"When I saw that," Susan recalls, "1 realized that 
maybe I knew as much about the market as most 
brokers. And that scared us right out of the market!" 

Many evenings, they're out: at an opening, a bene- 
fit, a movie, a new revue at Second City ("Last night, 
'Swine Lake' opened; it was fantastic— it satirized 
everything from ballet styles to politics . . .") But 
there are quiet evenings, too. 

"When we're having dinner at home, I shop for 
what we need, and arrive at the apartment before 
Clayton. I need a bit of time— to get out of a bubble 
bath and into a hostess dress— and then start dealing 
with dinner. By the time Clayton comes in the door, 
the music is on; the candles are lighted; the wine is 
chilled; and I'm (I hope) such a picture of relaxation 
that he might think I'd been home all day . . ." 


Except for her conversation. 

Count on it: Susan does not talk about household 
minutiae over the candlelight and wine. She's had an 
interesting day, and it shows. 

Patrecia Branden's life is interesting, too. Seeing her 
leave her husband's Sunset Boulevard offices in Los 
Angeles, you might guess that she's an actress, or a 
model. And you'd be right. She'll tell you though, 
that she's impatient with straight fashion modeling. 
"I much prefer acting; there has to be something to 
say . . ." 

Another part of her working life is assisting her 
husband at the Institute of Biocentric Psychology, 
which has as its aims marital enrichment and person- 
ality enrichment through a sense of self-esteem. 

The Brandens believe very strongly in the unique 
values of a childless marriage, and I've indicated that 
when I've quoted Nathaniel earlier in this book. What 
I have not described, because I'm not sure I can do it 
adequately, is the unique quality of their own marri- 
age. The friend who introduced me to the Brandens 
said, "If there is an argument for the childless 
marriage, it is Nathaniel and Patrecia. They are 

Nathaniel speaks of everything with enthusiasm, but 
particularly he's proud of Patrecia. "She's the most 
exciting and delightful woman 1 have ever known." 
She could not live in the ordinary way. Shutting 
herself off in their Beverly Hills home as a 'house- 
wife,' she would miss too much. 

"There are," she says, "well— I'll put it this way. 
There are dramatic moments in life, when everything 
stops short. There are periods of time when one lives 
at a high intensity, at peak awareness. Acting is like 
that; our feeling with people is like that . . ." 

"For that matter," Nathaniel interrupts, "life with 
Patrecia is like that." 

The Brandens go out less often than the Roots; and 
their evenings at home have less of a storybook 
quality than Susans and Clayton's. They are more apt 
to have an informal meal than one by candlelight, and 
they are not inclined to night life. For no particular 


reason, they do not drink. Other things are wine to 
them: ideas, people, and the experiences of working 
with both. 

I think that's true of other childless couples— in 
fact, I think that's typical of childless couples. And I 
think that such an approach to life has much to 
recommend it. You have to be ready to tune in to the 
real world, to try to look at the kaleidoscopic shifts 
of the adult personalities around you and get them to 
stop, once in a while, in patterns. What you see 
becomes a part of you. What you experience you 
then communicate. And you do not have to be a 
reporter or a model for this to be true. When I was in 
Chicago, I was a secretary, not a reporter. But I went 
to Second City and to a few benefit dances. And, 
frankly, although I think I am an interesting person 
to my husband now, I think I was just as interesting 
to him when I was a receptionist. I was just as aware 
of people; I just didn't write about them, that's all. 

Any job or career that you might try can provide 
experiences that will increase in value, that will add 
to you, and that will be exciting in themselves. 

There are experiences that I call "circus" experi- 
ences, taking the term from an e.e. cummings poem. 
In the poem I'm thinking of, cummings says some- 
thing like, "damn everything but the circus . . . damn 
everything that is grim, dull, motionless, unrisking, 
inward-turning . . . damn everything that won't throw 
its heart into the tension, surprise, fear and delight of 
the circus, the round world, the full existence ..." 

But in order to have these experiences (sharing 
coffee with a mayor in a duck blind; riding a cable car 
in San Francisco between interviews; dancing around 
a fountain with a conservative comptroller; seeing an 
expression change and knowing it means a mind has 
changed) you've got to be out in the world. You've 
got to be doing something, making your mark, or 
trying to. 

And then everything happens. 

And it won't if you sit home playing housewife- 

Circuses don't come to your door. 




"To understand men is easy. To know and under- 
stand one man can be the most difficult thing in 
the world." 

—A wife of one year 

To know and understand, you must communicate. 
And yet, most married couples don't. Not on any real 
level, anyway. 

Dr. Carl Meador, Director of the Center for Studies 
of the Person, La Jolla, California, says that within 
the function of their jobs, and within the structure of 
their homes, most couples have limited opportunity 
for self-discovery and meaningful communication. Or 
rather, he explains, "they see limited opportunities 
for discovering and communicating themselves. 

"Most couples set limits on their relationship. A 
husband or wife will think, 'I want something more, 
something deeper,' but will decide, 'Well, I'll settle 
for this.' Their marriage is a continuous and subtle 
struggle against the desire for more, in terms of 
intimacy and communication, than they now have." 

Hence the profusion of the intimacy-building, self- 
revealing encounter groups. Hence the popularity of 
communications workshops. If Dr. Meador's generali- 
zation is correct, many married couples are living in a 
kind of emotional prison, and they want out—into 
life (significantly, one of the Center's programs is 
called "To Be Alive")— and the escape route has to be 


While Dr. Meador's statement undeniably applies, to 
some extent, to most couples, it seems strangely 
inapplicable to most childless couples I have inter- 

Think back, for example, to Karen and Gary 
Kramer ("We talk for hours, every evening, hours 
. . .") and the way Wally was able to conclude Mar- 
cia's interview, because he knew in detail what had 
happened between Marcia and her supervisor. 

Or remember the way Helen Gurley Brown, Susan 
Root, and Patrecia Branden described their evenings 
with their husbands. Or Carole Ann and Jack Tucker: 
("We spend so much time planning, thinking, dream- 
ing . . . there is no time, it seems, to talk of the 
mundane; there is too much else, of more signifi- 
cance, that we have to say . . .") 

"Our second evening in London," Ann Barman 
recalls, "Bruce and I didn't go out. We sat in our 
hotel room and just spent the evening talking— oh, I 
couldn't tell you about what. About the fact that we 
were in London, and what that meant. Just being 
there seemed to affect our feelings somehow. We 
both felt as though we'd just been married . . ." 

That description of "struggling for more" just 
doesn't fit these marriages. 

Communication? These couples do it. Intimacy? 
They have it. It does not come automatically, though, 
even for childless couples. It is easier for us, by one 
thousand times, but it does not come automatically. 

I know it seems, for a long time, as though every- 
thing falls into place naturally. When you first meet a 
guy and fall in love with him, it seems that you're 
holding nothing back, that intimacy is complete, that 
communicating is natural. But that is really an illu- 
sion, based on novelty, the surface romanticism of 
dinners out and other fun rituals and sexual attrac- 

The talking you do during this time is seldom real 
communication. It is far too selective. Love talk is 
code phrases, verbal stimuli to spur the sexual re- 
sponse. Conversationally, he is saying what will im- 
press you; you are saying what will please him. You 


are showing the positive facets of your personality 
and past experiences, and, inasmuch as you conceal 
the mundane and the unflattering, you are guilty of 
some distortion. You are not really communicating 
the person you are; you are projecting an image. 

Such surface romanticism, obviously, cannot last. 
Sustaining an illusion is pretty impossible when you 
live with somebody. A while after marriage, the 
illusions begin to subside, pushed out by such subtle 
realities as juice cans left in the sink, towels crumpled 
on the bathroom floor (or a wife who's constantly 
running around tossing out the juice cans and picking 
up the towels; that's infinitely worse!). 

And there is a point— in most marriages, after a year 
or so—when the illusions are gone. And this occurs 
whether or not there are children. The difference is, 
the vanished illusions can be replaced by a deeper, 
real, and personal intimacy if there are no children. 
(With children, on the other hand, the leisure that is 
so vital to real self -disco very is hard to find.) For 
childless couples, the loss of illusion we've been 
talking about does not mean the loss of romance; and 
it does not mean, for us, any loss of sexuality. The 
surface romanticism goes; what comes next is real. 

The thing is, you have to admit reality gracefully. 
You can not grasp at the past or pout about "the way 
things were before." 

"It is a truism," says Jo Coudert in Advice from a 
Failure, "that the more things change, the more they 
stay the same, but it is equally accurate to reverse 
this: the more things stay the same, the more they 
change. For a marriage to stay the same— that is, for it 
to remain the enclosure of love and delight in the 
other— the people in it must be capable of growing 
and finding new ways of relating to each other ... If 
they cannot, the more they stay the same, and the 
marriage will change, and perhaps deteriorate beyond 
the point where one or both feel it is worth preserv- 
ing . . ." 

Why not bring "change" to a marriage or "find new 
ways to relate to each other" the easy way— by having 
children? Because the changes can escalate complete- 


ly out of control. Because the roles of man and 
woman separate. Because the social expectations for 
"fathers" and "mothers" actually function to prevent 
fulfillment as "man" and "woman." Because the triad 
is less functional than the dyad, and, rather than 
relating to each other in newer ways, the husband and 
wife may find themselves relating to each other in 
fewer ways. 

But I do not want you to think that, just because 
you avoid the pitfalls of child-raising, your marriage 
will automatically attain a state of perfection and 
automatically stay there. 

There will be change. And, if you accept this fact, 
that change can be growth. Don't be like one silly 
wife I know who went into a fit of petulance because 
her husband didn't bring her roses on their six 
months anniversary. That kind of clinging to the past 
("But he used to bring me roses all the time!") is 
reserved strictly for wives who don't care that their 
roses will be sent in the future by their husband's 

But if, as a wife, your life is full, if you relate to 
what happens today because it is, after all, today, and 
not because it is a six months anniversary, then you 
may get some flowers once in a while. And you'll get 
them from reasons of spontaneous feeling, and not 
because of empty ritual. They will represent some- 
thing real. 

There are several things to be done to make a 
relationship real. 

For a start, live that relationship in the present 
tense. When you're first getting to know each other, 
there's inevitably a lot of talking about the past (he 
had two broken teeth at age six; you had two prom 
dates at age sixteen) and there's something intoxicat- 
ing about this continual character revelation, the 
growing insights into each other's life as you glimpse 
these selected vignettes from each other's back- 

But stories of the past have their limits of time and 
charm. The thing that's absolutely necessary is to 
keep living, actively, so that you still have new 


insights into yourself to offer and to share. 

"The important thing to us," according to Ellen 
Muir of Seattle, "isn't doing everything together, but 
doing our own thing, then sharing it." 

Ellen is not a wife like May Larsen, who tries to pen 
her husband inside the home at all times. Larry comes 
home because he wants to, not because there's a lawn 
to mow, a hedge to trim, the kids to be taken to this 
or that appointment. 

I think it's usual for childless wives to have enough 
self-confidence to allow their husbands some free- 
dom. We can simply assume we are loved; we don't 
need continual Fido-like fidelity and ritual roses to 
"prove" it. We do not cling. Our husbands are not 
driven (as so many fathers are) to constantly seek 
escape. Their independent activities are based on real 
interests and do not grow out of claustrophobia. 

If Clayton Root had an evening business or political 
meeting, Susan would never say to him, "Stay 
home." And Ellen Muir wouldn't say that to her 
husband when he had planned a climbing trip. (Larry 
Muir is not a novice climber; with other Western 

nountain enthusiasts, he'll take on an almost vertical 

sheet of rock.) "I'm not saying I'm overjoyed when 
he leaves on a trip," Ellen explains, "but Larry loves 
the challenge of difficult climbs. He has a taste for 
adventure that does not get satisfied in a scientific 
laboratory. What right would I have to try to keep 
him home?" 

While Larry is gone, Ellen doesn't sit around getting 
bored. She does community work, or goes to a play 
with friends. And she has a passion for reading— and 
writing— excellent mystery stories. 

While your husband is at a Chamber of Commerce 
meeting or at an Orioles game with his boss, you 
should find something to do, too— and it should be 
more than your nails or the kitchen floor, as these 
afford only the most limited communication when 
your husband comes home. I'll have to admit that 
this is a perfect time to do housework and errands, 
but housework can be finished quickly, and errands 
needn't be limited to the usual shop-for-food and 


pick-up-laundry. Stop at a record shop or the library 
and bring home a Van Cliburn to go with the lamb 
roast. (Van Cliburn also goes very nicely with after- 
dinner letter writing, cafe au lait, and random talk.) 

Patrecia Branden gave me that idea, actually. She 
brings home albums constantly, and her taste is 
distinctive. ("Most of the top-selling albums we have 
never heard of.") She likes romantic classical music— 
Saint-Saens is a favorite— or something unusual, like 
the Richard Harris/Jim Webb album, The Yard Went 
on Forever. 

Music can be a communications aid. A light-classical 
lp is simple background for feelings; and something 
like The Yard Went on Forever can actually prompt 
feelings. When Bill and I were listening to The Yard, 
we just looked at each other and couldn't discuss it 
for maybe five minutes. It's a very powerful song; it 
creates a world and takes you into it, whether or not 
you want to go. 

There is really a dual function to things you do on 
your own: they add to you; and so they add to what 
you have to communicate. 

But we've only talked about leisure time so far. 

It is also vital, to truly know someone, to share his 
work experiences. As Helen Gurley Brown explains, 
"The woman who works, sees, experiences, can there- 
fore understand her husband's reactions to the pres- 
sures and tensions of a job." Such a wife is more apt 
to be a meaningful partner and one that her husband 
can talk to. 

I found that childless wives, particularly those with 
jobs of their own, could usually tell me a great deal 
about their husbands' work. A wife with children, by 
contrast, had often lost touch completely. She typi- 
cally gave me a one-sentence answer. Or she added 
information like, "He's been with the company five 

Contrast this with Carole Tucker's description of 
her husband's job: (Jack is financial manager for the 
publishing company that also employs Carole as 
editor of Teen magazine.) 

". . . Jack works with projections of advertising, 

circulation, salesmen's efforts, changes in office build- 
ings, operating costs, expense accounts, promotional 
projects. He draws data from seventeen branch 
offices, looks at everything involved in the total 
financial picture of the company, projects probable 
costs and makes sure they're in tine with gross income 
and net profits. 

"Sure, Jack talks to me about all this. And we're 
constantly exchanging ideas about our work; ideas, 
too, about people we both know in the company. 
That can be wild, because we see people so different- 
ly. Jack, being a bit reserved, sees people from ten 
paces back. I eyeball them. And we can get involved 
in some far-out discussions about people we both 
know; what they're really like, what they really want, 
are they really happy. Putting our thoughts together 
makes for more understanding, and far more reward- 
ing relationships than we could have singly. 

"But it's impossible to talk about Jack's work 
without talking about Jack. Unlike me, Jack is cool at 
all times. Never does emotion override the logic of 
the situation at hand. Except when there's mention 
of a stock-market or commodities-market downswing, 
some unforeseen company costs. Then there's a com- 
plete metamorphosis. He paces, worries, wrestles with 
charts and graphs . . . 

"His work Ls fascinating, an entirely different world 
from mine. Jack can make a graph seem interesting. 
And I can appreciate what his special talents are. His 
job does take talent, though of a different sort, r'm 
sure some men working with the financial aspects of a 
publishing company wouldn't know anything about 
what the company published, wouldn't know an 
editorial page from an ad page. But Jack can under- 
stand the esthetics of a magazine, yet grasp both the 
esthetic and practical applications. A rare combina- 

What is rare is Carole's appreciation of his work. 

It occurred to me after talking to Carole that 
possibly the total communication within a marriage is 
aided if husband and wife work closely together. I 
had the same feeling hearing Lila Prager talk about 


her relationship with her husband, Tom. (I've dis- 
cussed them in Chapter 5.) Whereas Carole and Jack 
share the same company within which they have 
differing functions, Lila and Tom share the same 
career field: both are psychologists. "Although our 
work is important," she says, "when one of us wants 
to drop it for a while, the other does, too. For 
example, Tom just came up to my study cubicle last 
night and said, 'Let's do something tonight. I just 
can't study anymore.' 

"On evenings like that, we catch a six o'clock 
showing of something light, like Airport, or a Beatles 
movie, and get a hamburger afterwards. Or we might 
drive around the edge of town watching the sun set, 
or drop in on friends for cards and coffee. Or go to 
the bookstore, stock up on magazines, and take them 
to the Union building to laugh over. I think this is the 
most important thing about our recreation: its spon- 
taneity, and the way it suits the needs of the mo- 
ment . . ." 

Significantly, Lila adds: "Eventually, we get around 
to talking about the problem that drove one or the 
other of us away from studying." 

Now, with the wife-in-the-home, taking care of 
babies, and the husband-outside-the-home, involved 
in studies, such ideal communication just couldn't 
result. Neither would appreciate the other's tasks; 
neither would truly understand the other's prob- 

1 want to add a word about the housework, in their 
case, because housework can have a bearing on 
communication, too. 

"The housework is done by whoever feels like it. 
Tom always cooks the meat, I do the vegetables and 
salad. He makes the salad dressing, I do dessert. If we 
have spaghetti, though, Tom makes it, because his is 
brilliant. If we have anything that comes from a 
recipe, I do it. He takes out the trash; I do the 
ironing. Whichever one of us feels least negative 
towards it cleans out the bathtub. We both straighten 
things up; we take turns tossing the dishes into the 


If you'll think about that a minute, you'll see why 
that's ideal, as far as communication's concerned. If 
your husband is in the living room and you're in the 
kitchen, do you talk much? See what happens, 
though, if you fix dinner together one night. 

Of course, not all husbands will go for that idea, so 
be subtle if you have to. Not, "Dear, I thought it 
would be nice if we got dinner together tonight," but, 
"Hey, help! I can't get the lid off the olives and the 
cheese for the salad is too hard to put through the 

If you can do this at least occasionally, you won't 
lose touch with each other. And if you are in touch 
with each other, it's easy to talk about whatever is on 
your mind, before it gets repressed or becomes 

"We always discuss with each other any little thing 
that comes up," says Lila. "There's no problem there 
because we're so close that anything gets discussed 
naturally, as it occurs. Probably this is why we fight 
so seldom. We're in such a state of complete under- 
standing usually that there's nothing to fight about. 
And little things that might bother us get talked out 
before they have a chance to assume any large 

Not every couple, of course— not even every child- 
less couple— would want such complete closeness. 

It wouldn't suit Paul and Gail Blaisdell. Paul has a 
rather rigorous academic administration job at Johns 
Hopkins University; he wants his wife involved in 
something completely different. Gail is out every day, 
free-lancing at a dozen different writing, photogra- 
phy, and public-relations jobs (which she qualifies for 
due to a lengthy stint as a newspaper reporter). 

And Ann and Bruce Berman find that two separate 
careers give them two views of the city: two worlds, 
not one. Ann sees young Baltimore from the frenzied 
perspective of her downtown boutique; Bruce 
(though he's with her at the store on Saturdays) deals 
with more established parts of the city in his real- 
estate job. 

Whether you and your husband want relative close- 

ness or relative separation in your work has nothing 
to do with the degree of love in your marriage. It is 
more a matter of job interests. In order for both 
husband and wife to be in the same career field, like 
the Pragers, both must be highly interested in that 
field and see a lot of variety within it. 

In most cases, it's probably better if we wives have 
jobs and careers somewhat separate from our hus- 
bands'. There will still be a basis for sharing, com- 
municating with our husbands about their jobs. 

It can be difficult to communicate about jobs, 
because most jobs have problems. But something 
happens when a vital area of life is unshared. That 
"something" is emotional separation, and it starts 
with silence. 

Most married couples get to know each other— up to 
a point, a certain, clearly -defined point— and that's it. 
That stopping point is the point beyond which 
vulnerability or inadequacy might be exposed. And 
many people feel inadequate within their field of 
work. Probably the majority of men are, on their own 
terms, unsuccessful in their jobs. Some degree of 
dissatisfaction is the general rule. That's why many 
wives, when they ask, "How was work today, dear?" 
get some form of silence: a monosyllable ("Fine") or 
an excuse ("Oh, I don't like to bring office problems 
home with me"). 

This is often the first area of silence, of not sharing. 

Later, there may be others. 

That's why you can't accept the silence or the "I 
want to leave the office at the office" excuse. Not 
consistently, anyway. Silence often effectively masks 
problems. But it also causes it own. If a guy gets used 
to never expressing things he feels, outwardly, he may 
stop defining these things to himself, inwardly. What- 
ever is difficult for him to deal with is buried then, 
true. But buried preoccupations, as Jo Coudert points 
out, do not go underground alone. They take with 
them valuable parts of the personality, depriving the 
personality of richness and variety of response, and, I 
might add, of general enjoyment. 

This happens all the time to men in households with 


children. I heard dozens of comments more or less 
like the following: "Look, supposing I did want to 
talk something over. In the first place, she wouldn't 
understand anyway. If I tell her I lost an account, 
she'd think I was trying to say I was being fired, and 
we'd argue all night. But besides, who can talk about 
the office or anything with Lois yelling about who hit 
Tommy and where Jimmie left his bike and why were 
they late getting home? Believe me, even if I come 
home at six with something on my mind, who can 
remember it through three hours of that commo- 

But let's be honest. The same situation— a taciturn 
husband— happens sometimes to those of us without 
children. We have to ask ourselves why. 

Perhaps we, too, lack understanding. If we, too, go 
to pieces when a husband tells us about a poor client 
interview, a lost account, we can't expect much in the 
way of future candor about work problems. And 
that, of course, means trouble. Men talk about their 
problems to someone, eventually. If you want your 
husband to talk about his to you, you've got to be 
more supportive than critical. 

And some of us who have no children may have, 
from time to time, what amounts to a substitute 
"child." That is, we may find ourselves involved in a 
project that requires similar expenditures of time, 
energy, and attention. I did not find very many 
examples of this. But I can give you a very personal 
one. It happened to me (ironically enough!) at one 
point during the writing of this book. I was, one 
evening, expounding to Bill on all that's in Chapter 7. 
What a trap it all was! How much enjoyment it 
prevented! "I could never spend all that time doing 
laundry and changing diapers," I concluded. "No," 
Bill agreed, "you do revisions, and you change type- 
writer ribbons." 

That was all he had to say. I got the point; and I'm 
sure you do, too. If, occasionally, you have a project 
of such importance that it does pre-empt lots of your 
time, catch yourself before such projects become a 


Or, if our husbands are not communicating prob- 
lems, it's possibly because we're still illusion-tending. 
Wife is busy being Perfect Wife, Perfect Homemaker. 
Husband doesn't feel like introducing real problems 
into all this artificial perfection. So, Wife (Perfect 
Homekaer) does dishes in the kitchen ("I must 
remember to get some new barbecue tools tomorrow 
and try that new dessert mix I have the cents 7 off 
coupon for . . .") while husband reads and works out 
his own problems ("I'll put in a request for some 
extra office help and maybe we can get the monthly 
report out on time; I wish Phil would quit bothering 
me about it though . . ."). 

And that's no good. 

Neither wife nor husband knows what's going on in 
each other's mind, and that can be the first step down 
two separate roads. 

Personally, I've found that certain situations can 
help stimulate talk about work problems. I've not 
found any leading questions to be helpful, though. In 
fact, little lead-ins like, "Gee, did something go wrong 
today, dear? You look so dejected," can prompt 
anything from an explosion to a denial to a clam-up 
but probably not an answer to your question. 

Here are some things that do help: 

1) Relaxation. Some simple sensuality. (More on 
this later in the chapter.) Some humor. Some 
music in the house. A shoulder-rub. A shower. A 
drink. If your husband does look tense and deject- 
ed, don't tell him he looks tense and dejected. 
Say, "You look like you could use a cold shower 
and a Scotch." 

2) Activity. Carole Ann and Jack play tennis twice 
a week. Susan and Clayton Root bicycle along the 
Chicago shoreline sometimes. Ann and Bruce Ber- 
man run around Druid Park Lake ("Bruce jogs in 
circles around me so that I can keep up with 
him," Ann explains.) If the weather's at all good, 
Bill and I are at the swimming pool. Or, try golf. 
Or horseback riding. (If you don't know how, 
they have people to teach you.) Surf, if you live 


near an ocean and it's summer; ski, if you live in 
the mountains and it's winter. 

3) Conversation, from you. Rather than ask him a 
question, just start talking. What happened to you 
during the day, for example? 

4) If you're going to ask a question, make it 
specific. Not just "How was work?" but "Is 
Harold back from vacation?" "Did you finish that 
assignment you were working on?" "How did you 
tell Phil you didn't like his reorganization idea?" 

Or, start talking about something that's not even 
related to work. You've read a newspaper or a 
magazine or seen somebody interesting on the sub- 
way today, haven't you? Or you've been shopping for 
vine leaves to stuff and brown rice to stuff them with 
and became instant friends with the owner of the 
specialty food shop? Or talk about Dustin Hoffman, 
the windows at Hecht's, the Polisfair, or politics. 

Just joking around can be good. ("I'm worried 

about this wine," I heard Ellen Muir say once, "it 

astes like the skin stayed on the grape just slightly 

oo long during the second pressing; so the wine is at 

he same time too young and too old . . .") 

And reminiscing can be good, especially if you're 

looking back to some difficult times. Comments like, 

"Do you remember when I always used to get mad 

about that, not just sometimes?" is a way of pointing 

out progress in a relationship. 

Though this seems like small talk, and often is, it 
does establish verbal contact and gets things moving. 
Lots of times, "just talk" precedes real communica- 

The stimulation of a new situation also helps; and 
here, again, we have an advantage over wives with 
kids-in-the-house. We can say, "Take me out to 
dinner, OK?" or, "Could we go out and see a movie 
tonight?" And, away from the usual home setting, 
thought-sharing is often easier. 

Communicating means sharing thoughts about 
nearly everything, whether it's jobs, art, sex, tennis, 
or values. And communication involves feeling as well 


as words, the body as well as the mind. The self is 
sensual; that's why most "encounter" or "commu- 
nications" groups begin on a level of sensuality. 

Unfortunately, the loss of the sensual self is com- 
mon, particularly among city dwellers, and maybe 
this shouldn't be very surprising. Our awareness of 
our physical selves depends to some extent on the 
stimulation offered by our surroundings; and city 
surroundings (unless you happen to work in an art 
gallery) can offer meager sensory input. There are 
about ten trillion textures, for example, in your 
average forest—and maybe ten in the Union Carbide 

But beyond this, cities (and civilization in general, I 
suppose) set up funny material values based more on 
status than sensuality. In fact, the loss of sensuality 
(or pleasure) can be almost directly measured by the 
attention given to status (power) symbols. And the 
point is, within your own home, it would be a 
mistake to set up these status-y values. Status items 
do not aid communication, as do things that provide 
sensual pleasure. 

In the first place, communication at the level o 
physical sensation is relaxing and enjoyable. Tall 
about the taste of the fontina cheese, about the Cajun 
sounds of an Exuma album, or about what you hear 
during a walk at midnight. (It may occur to you that 
your perceptions of sight and sound increase as your 
speed of walking decreases.) 

Or, if you have any interest in giving you and your 
husband an "encounter group at home" experience, 
begin where the encounter groups do: with the sense 
of touch. 

Now, since the explosion of the sensitivity/com- 
munications/encounter groups, there have been a lot 
of books that deal, in whole or in part, with awaken- 
ing the sense of touch. One of my favorites is Bernard 
Gunther's Sense Relaxation. It differs from other 
good books on the subject (like William Schutz's Joy) 
in its wealth of specific sense-play exercises. 

Many of the other books of the genre are mainly 
theory. This one begins: 



(those two words take up the entire page) 

and then it tells you exactly what to do. Your first 
assignment is to "sit straight, not rigid in a chair . . . 
close your eyes and follow your thoughts for one 
minute." Then you let the thoughts go and simply 
concentrate on how every part of your body feels. 

There are pages of exercises for stretching, lifting, 
slapping, touching, falling, tapping, bending, explor- 
ing all the parts of your body (would you believe two 
pages on how to touch the back of the leg?) in order 
to awaken every part of the body to the sense of 

And (here we go!) there are exercises for the two of 
you, including, in a lengthy page, some general 
instructions for touching: 

*let your hands take the 
contour of the area to be touched 
*don't move your hands or 
fingers around once you have 
established contact 

* give you partner plenty 
of time in between touches 

* the touch is firm-light; 

don't push down or squeeze your 

* stay with what you're doing, 
touching, rather than let your 
mind wander elsewhere 

and for being touched : 

* keep your eyes closed 
during the entire experience 
unless instructed otherwise 

* be open . . . and let the effects 
of the touch move through you 

* allow whatever wants to happen 


* don't make anything happen or 
keep anything from happening 

And the actual touching exercises that follow those 
general instructions are very good for you. Part of the 
fun of these sense-play games with your husband is 
really getting into the instructions and letting them 
turn you on ("Stay alive in your hands . . .") and part 
of the fun is in "allowing whatever wants to happen." 
And (forgive me for beating my drum again) it's a lot 
easier to let things happen and grow from these 
exercises if you don't have to put the kids to bed or 
check to make sure they're not tearing the pillows 

By the way, although these sense-relaxation exer- 
cises often lead to sexual arousal, that's not the sole 
reason for them. In a marriage that already has a 
healthy sexual relationship, these sensitivity exercises 
serve as a simple stimulant to communication. 

Because talking about sense experiences is easy 
("that feels funny;" "that feels good;" "that feels like 
needles, like fire") it can lead into talking about 
things that are less easy to discuss. 

Then, too, the ability to appreciate sense experi- 
ences improves a person's emotional experiences. 
Sense perceptions depend on variety and contrast. 
So do emotional perceptions. 

When a person can feel— in his hands— the difference 
between one body surface and another, he may be 
opened up enough to feel in his mind the difference 
between the way he felt about you an hour ago and 

And as we've implied, since sex is a part of the total 
sensual self, perceptions of the sexual self increase 
right along with sensuality. 

Now, of course, it will be no news to you that not 
all husbands are going to go for these formalized 
sensitivity -training-at-home games. Not if they're 
directly suggested, anyway. Of course, a book with 
free and unclothed bodies illustrating its exercises 
(like the Gunther book) might be halfway intriguing, 
if it's just lying on the coffee table. 


I simply brought the book home one night and 
tossed it down as I started to get some drinks for us. 
"What's this?" Bill called as he picked it up. 

"Oh, I just thought it looked interesting." 

He read it for a few minutes. 

"Come here!" he said. 

But you can increase sense awareness without books 
at all. (Towel him off after his shower; ask him to put 
your body lotion on you. Play barefoot games under 
the coffee table as you're leafing through magazines 
and the mail after dinner.) The trick is to keep your 
mind alive to your body: realize what you're doing, 
as you're doing it; be aware of sensations, as you're 
feeling them. This applies to love-making, too, of 
course; and here, too, being actively aware of what 
you're feeling, and even talking or whispering about 
those feelings, can add to the sensations involved and 
give infinite variety to the sexual experience. 

Inasmuch as these things promote physical intim- 
acy, they allow you and your husband to know each 
other better on a sensual level. But they do not 
expand the mind and the personality in and of 
themselves. Other input is needed for totally mean- 
ingful communication. You need continually chang- 
ing situations around you— new people, new interests. 

For too many married couples, though, marriage 
signals a retreat to the womb. They enter Their 
House, and they Stay Put. They don't go out. "Oh, 
we used to before we were married . . ."—but now 
they're economizing. They're saving for the house, 
the furniture, the children. By the time they acquire 
the house and furniture, by the time the children 
come, they can hate each other. Inwardly, each 
blames the other for those deadly goals of "thrift" 
that have cheated each one of a richness of experi- 
ence that is the soil for emotional growth. 

Don't let that happen. Get out and go interesting 
places. Keep yourself open to what you see. You can 
get carried away talking, just reacting to what is 
around you, if there are stimulating situations around 

Go to the Crack of Dawn coffee house and hear a 

new singer, or to a campaign-committee meeting for a 
state congressman. (Go out to dinner afterwards and 
talk about folk singing and politics.) Go to a wilder- 
ness-club meeting and find out about a white-water 
trip by raft down the Youghiogheny River. Come 
home, and, amidst the snug security of comfy throw 
pillows and bubbly fondue, ask each other if you're 
really the sort of people who can do that, who can 
get on a raft and face a sixteen-hour trip over rocks 
and rapids. Go to an out-of-town restaurant, to a 
community theater play, to a night ball game, or to a 
movie you don't think you'll like. 

And that is the way you get to know each other, by 
the way. You don't really learn much about one 
another by sitting down and word-exchanging. A 
person can say, "I like modern music," or "I like 
films that make a social comment," and so what? 
You don't really know that person's tastes until you 
go with him to an experimental symphony, or to a 
rerun of Medium Cool. 

("Did you like that . . . ?" "Yes . . ." "Why?" 
"Because . . .") 

These external situations are like mirrors, in which 
you see each other's views and attitudes quite clearly 

And, while it undoubtedly helps if you live in New 
York, you don't have to live in a large city to do all 
this. Evansville, Indiana, for example, is probably 
fairly typical of cities which are not New York, and 
there are things to do there! Frequent art festivals 
have included such events as poetry reading by Mari 
Evans, folk singing by John Jacob Niles, a Black 
artists' show from DuSable Museum, films ranging 
from Wild Strawberries to Mr, Roberts, free concerts 
at the jazz club, and trail walks. 
And there are always community projects. 
And there is always politics. 

As a marriage grows, perhaps the most important 
aid to communication is the sharing of mutual proj- 
ects, whether of politics or interior decoration; but 
politics is better. Sure, you can talk meaningfully 
while handing each other paintbrushes; but the goal 


you're working toward (a coral wall) is rather limited. 
You need one that can bolster your entire sense of 
self. If you both work for a political candidate, for 
example, you feel personally valuable, and yet at the 
same time you feel outside yourself, part of a process 
larger than yourself. Propped up by all this, com- 
munication-even the revealing of some real or 
imagined personal fault— just does not present such a 
serious problem. 

There are seldom instant results, of course. Getting 
to know someone is a slow process, and it is a risky 
business. "Getting to know someone," Eldridge 
Cleaver wrote in Soul on Ice, "entering that new 
world, is an ultimate, irretrievable leap into the 
unknown. The prospect is terrifying ... the emotions 
are overwhelming. The two people are reluctant really 
to strip themselves naked in front of each other, 
because in doing so they make themselves vulnerable 
and give enormous power over themselves, one to the 
other. How often they inflict pain . . . Better to 
maintain shallow, superficial affairs; that way the 
scars are not too deep. No blood is hacked from the 
soul . . ." 

This, then, is the fear. If you know someone, you 
have a certain power over him. Because if you know 
him, you know what will hurt him. And we all fear 
the various hurts that self-revelation makes us vulner- 
able to: pity, condescension, insult. 

Why bother, then? If people seem naturally to resist 
communicating with each other, why bother? Why 
not let it alone? 

Because communication is necessary to a good 
marriage, that's why. If you do not know what is in a 
man's mind, then you are not really sharing his life, 
nor he yours. 

It's important to know what happens to each other, 
day by day. Because that's life, after all: not what 
happens on birthdays and anniversaries, but what 
happens— what you learn and how you change— to- 
day, May 12, and tomorrow. May 13. That's life. And 
many couples miss it. They're so involved with fun 


and games and this and that, and the bridge club and 
the overtime, and the kids and the PTA, that they 
truly never, never know what's going on in each 
other's thinking. And you have to know. You have to 

Now, if you don't go after this kind of communica- 
tion, you simply will not build intimacy. And I'm 
talking about all aspects of intimacy, including the 
sexual. (As Dr. Meador plainly put it, "You talk 
more; you make love more.") 

And if you don't work for that kind of communica- 
tion, the results can be rather sad. You can find 
yourself inwardly busy hiding things, afraid to be 
alone, afraid to be together, always needing people 
around to applaud the act you're putting on. You can 
find yourself very busy making up lies to yourself and 
thinking up convincing ways to tell those lies. And 
you can get used to that. But you can go a little bit 
crazy from it. 

It's better to take a chance, to say what's in your 
mind, to encourage your husband to do the same. 
And, if real communication has been a rarity to your 
past experience or his, try some of the techniques 
we've talked about to encourage the initial sharing. 

(Virginia Satir would probably like to interrupt at 
this point. As a noted marriage counselor and an 
originator of the encounter group, and as a believer in 
increased marital intimacy through communication, 
she is wary of the word "technique." You can create 
conditions for intimacy, for communication, she 
pointed out to me. But she feels it's best not to think 
of these as "techniques." Her feeling is that one can 
end up making a game, with limited goals, out o' 
the very serious business of communication.) 

If the techniques in this chapter are used simply 
get-him-to-talk ploys, they can go sour rather tha 
going good. It all depends on the degree of your love 
and the sincerity of your intention. Your intention 
can't be merely to know what's going on out ol 
wifely nosiness. It can't be to know what's going on 
so you'll have ammunition for future wifely fights 


and games. You have to want to know what really is 
and be prepared to accept departures from the image 
that you knew before. 

But only when a man does reveal the self behind the 
image can there be love. We can be attracted to those 
who impress us, and to those who offer us something. 
But we can love only those we know deeply. 

There is just one thing I would add: to know a 
person deeply may not mean to know that person 
completely . Total communication is a goal, an ideal. 
And, though it is a worthwhile goal, you shouldn't in 
all cases approach it too energetically. There are some 
husbands— and wives, for that matter— who are not 
comfortable with the idea of complete self-revelation. 
So, wait a while. If information is ripped prematurely 
from the mind, it may be stillborn and valueless. 

Further, in any marriage there are some problems 
that simply cannot be talked out, because such 
opposite points of view are held so firmly that 
bitterness, and not understanding, will result. 

And there are some situations it might be better to 
keep to oneself. These vary with each marriage, but 
one fairly general suggestion might be: keep to 
yourself details of other, or previous, love affairs. I 
know of one disastrous result of a California en- 
counter group. Toby, a young wife, feeling pressured 
by similar revelations from other couples, told in 
detail about affairs she had had before her marriage. 
It almost meant the breakup of her marriage, because 
her husband was yet too possessive and insecure to 
accept this knowledge. Her disclosure, if made at all, 
should have waited until his possessiveness lessened. 

But of course Toby's husband is not yours. And her 
particular situation is not yours. And I suppose what 
I am essentially saying is this: take these suggestions 
for communication, for openness and honesty and 
sharing, and temper them with your own judgment. 
You are dealing, after all, with your own marriage. 
And any generalizations I have made should be 
modified, by you, with that in mind. 



Life Styles 

Childless couples are selfish and pleasure-seeking, 
right? Found in expensive houses, cuddled on shaggy 
rugs, making love and sipping champagne to Saint- 
Saens, diving into private pools or basking by Lake 
Michigan or the Mediterranean. Whizzing by in tiny, 
just-for-two cars. Always on the way someplace— to a 
film, a benefit, a spa, a ballet, a party. Seen in 
airports (because we do a lot of traveling) or in shops 
(because we do a lot of spending). "Girls living in the 
perpetual adolescence of a Disneyland with Playboy 
husbands," in the indignant opinion of one wife with 

Please, that's not quite it. I hope that, in trying to 
counteract some of the unfounded stereotypes of 
childless couples as "barren" or "different," I have 
not set up new stereotypes of sybaritic twosomes. 

Barren we are definitely not. (Show me any one 
hundred mothers my age, picked at random, and I 
will show you ninety-nine of those hundred whose 
lives are barren compared to mine.) 

But neither are we selfish, sybaritic, or adolescent. 

Maybe some of it seems like adolescence because we 
have not committed ourselves to the usual adult 
pattern of continual obligation. But there are other 

We've mentioned Rex and Diane Roupe of Des 
Moines before. I'd like to tell you a bit more about 
them. Just by way of background, they were married 
in 1957, having known each other through high 
school and college. He's a lawyer; she's had several 
careers and is now directing a national project for 


Goodwill Industries. (She was, by the way, Iowa's 
Outstanding Young Woman of 1970.) 

They have no children. "It wasn't even a conscious 
decision, or anything we discussed," Diane recalls. 
"Our life was always so full and so varied that it was 
right and natural not to have children. We've had 
wonderful years, and we've both been fortunate in 
being able to use our abilities to good ends. 

"Right now, I'm putting together a training pro- 
gram that will help those who learn occupational 
skills at Goodwill. There's something very awe-inspir- 
ing about helping others, about learning to appreciate 
a person for what he has and can do, without 
avoiding or glossing over what he does not have and 
cannot do. 

"The real courage of handicapped people who try 
with all their hearts to do the simple things we take 
for granted— well, this courage, when seen, has to 
inspire those who see it. And it's a mutually reward- 
ing alliance we want to see between the volunteers 
and those who are in Goodwill's vocational programs. 

"Now, the difference between what I'm doing, and 
what the typical housewife-mother does, is the dif- 
ference between growing wings and dusting shelves! I 
suppose all work is rewarding, in its way, but I think 
that housework has a built-in disadvantage: it must 
always be re-done. Little is truly or permanently 
changed or made better. There is a need to repeat 
tasks, on a day-to-day basis, and this can lead to a 
sense of frustration. Even the raising of children can 
fail to be a creative task, because a wife can become 
so bound to housework that she loses touch with the 

"A little-known British woman, Lady Allenby, 
wrote something that 1 believe holds the key to a 
sense of purpose; almost a century ago, she said, 
'Realize that we are all a part of the machine that is 
Society, and matter less to ourselves than to the 
world in general, and you and your marriage will be 

"Rex and I prefer to be part of the world. When we 
meet people, talk to them, exchange ideas, help 


people— often things do change, permanently, because 
of what we've said or done. It gives a sense of 
purpose. It is an exciting thing." 

"Rex and I feel very strongly, I guess, that we are 
each born to do certain things on this earth and that 
reproducing the species is not necessarily one of 
these. The world has three billion people now. Per- 
haps one billion are cared for in any way at all. 
Should one bring more people into a world such as 
this? Or should one try to help those already born 
who need care? 

"For Rex, and for me, the giving of our talents to 
the community as a whole is more important. We 
shall be able to say, when this life is over, 'We gave 
the best of what we had to this world.' " 

Rex and Diane are a departure from the hedonistic- 

So is Stephanie Mills, a beautiful San Francisco girl 
working one year, in a college-girl skirt and sweater, 
for Planned Parenthood in Oakland; and sitting the 
next year, in a plain peasant dress, at the editor's desk 
of Earth Times magazine. Her commitment was heard 
around the world in 1969 when, in her valedictory 
address at Mills College in California, she said simply 
that she would never have any children. "Commit- 
ment is seldom comfortable, I guess," she told me as 
we talked in her office, "and I've been subjected to 
every kind of harassment . . . But regardless of how 
comfortable or uncomfortable it is, it's important and 
it's necessary. ['Until the so-called silent majority 
wakes up and realizes that its world just might end, ' 
must continue to argue for childlessness,' she had sail 
earlier, in an interview with Look magazine.) And it'* 
exciting to see a movement growing; to toss a pebble 
into the water and see the waves spread; to talk to 
younger girls [she was twenty -one then] who say they 
feel the same way I do . . ." 

There was a phone call, and she continued. 

"Some people think it's strange that I, just on my 
own, could make the "no children" decision. 'You're 
not married,' people say; 'how will your husband feel 
about it?' 


"Well, girls like me simply do not marry men whose 
idea of pleasure in life is driving in a station wagon 
full of kids to a crowded national park to stand in 
line and look at a redwood. To remain childless— well, 
it's a perfectly logical decision for a single girl to 
make. Kind of like a liberal chick saying she doesn't 
believe in racism, and therefore can't marry a racist." 

"Unless she reforms him, maybe." 

"Right. Unless she reforms him." 

A tall boy walked into her office— jeans, sandals, 
hair . . . "I'm Mike Goodwin's brother, Jerry," he 
said, Stephanie looked blank. "OK, well, forget that; 
I thought somebody was going to tell you. Well, 
listen, I'm a photographer, and I've been teaching 
marine biology on the bay for eight years, and I've 
got eight years' worth of ecological photographs, and 
I— well, look, if you can use them at all, I'll bring 
them in. Or if there's anything particular you want 
pictures of, I'll take them ... No charge." 

"Yeah, that's just the kind of thing we're looking 
for. Why don't you just make some selections and 
bring them in . . ." 

They talked for a few minutes, and he left, just as 
her phone rang and a man who looked like Jean-Paul 
Belmondo walked (no, blasted) through the door 
yelling, "Stef, what happened to the Cambodia 

"Yeah, Bob, I'm glad you called," she was saying 
into the phone as Belmondo was ravaging her desk. 
"No, we do want the oil company follow-up, but it's 
been pushed back to next issue . . .I'm sorry nobody 
called you about it. Right; see you soon." 

She and Belmondo talked for a few minutes about 

Earth Times, I might explain, was a magazine of 
outrage against a number of things: war, fraud in 
government, fraud in advertising, pesticide poisoning, 
air and water pollution, and apathy, to name a few. 

Ultimately, it was defeated by that last adversary. 
"Earth Times will cease publication effective with 
Issue #4," read a letter that reached me just last 
week. "Thank you for your support. Unfortunately, 


we find that our subscriptions are not adequate to 
maintain the required investment in Earth Times . . ." 

Stephanie will find something else, of course. If 
someone is interested in saving a bit of what's left of 
the world, there are lots of places to start. 

And the man she marries will be similarly commit- 
ted. Stephanie Mills will marry, probably, a marine 
biologist or a consumer crusader. And she and her 
husband will not be a childless couple of the hedonis- 
tic type. 

Now, I will not deny that there might be a bit of a 
basis for thinking of some of us as pleasure-oriented 
or hedonistic or selfish. I cannot deny that many of 
us are interested in our selves, as people living a life, 
in the world, and wanting to see as much of that 
world, and make as much of that life, as we can. 

And there can be elements of material self-indul- 
gence within that attitude. 

Carole Tucker has a tendency to dismiss the conven- 
tional. Not for her the sparkling-type wedding ring 
that, big, little, teeny or gaudy, everybody else is 
showing off. Hers is antique gold, with four garnets, 
rather reminiscent of a harem band and patterned 
after a ring her grandmother wore: a ring she and 
Jack selected together, something fine and uniquely 

It might also, I suppose, be called self-indulgent. 

And the Brandens, it must be admitted, live ii 
Greek-modern house (with pool) overlooking Bevc 

And Gail Blaisdell drives a Fiat and does not loo! 
the prices on the menu when Paul takes her to din 
at Tio Pepe in Baltimore or the Sans Souci 

And we've mentioned Marcia and Wally befo. 
"Wally urges me to be extravagant and buy thin 
that are expensive and nice. He's very proud that I' 
attractive to other men and loves to take me places 
meet his colleagues . . ." 

Marcia spends just under 100% of her salary ( 

That, too, is self-indulgent, I guess. 

Helen Gurley Brown has Puccis, a masseur, and a 
maid to cook dinner, as well as a few other luxuries I 
will leave you to imagine. Ann and Bruce Berman 
have a fantastic house by a lake, and they flew to 
London last winter. And a Minnesota lawyer I know, 
married for ten years with no children, "dates" his 
wife; they live together in a fun-fun lifestyle that is 
close to that typefied in Playboy magazine. 

But that is not the whole story. 

A more complete profile of all these couples needs 
to be presented. 

Carole and Jack Tucker, besides playing tennis, 
enjoying fine food and wine, and driving to Palm 
Springs, are devoted to a number of good causes. 
Teen magazine has carried immensely valuable arti- 
cles: on conservation, for example; and on the trag- 
edy and beauty of today's young American Indians. 

Patrecia and Nathaniel Branden work at helping 
people to understand themselves; and they work 
hard. Nathaniel is one of Los Angeles' busiest practic- 
ing psychotherapists; and, aside from her work in the 
theater, Patrecia assists him in his therapy groups. 
Even on rare vacations, they are avid about finding 
professional people in the area. "One of our greatest 
sources of enjoyment," explains Nathaniel, "is discus- 
sing various aspects of psychology and new methods 
to make psychotherapy more effective." 

Relevant to this is the fact that Nathaniel's book, 
The Psychology of Self-Esteem , stresses the fallacy of 
regarding your work as something to be paced 
through so that you can enjoy yourself afterwards. 
Work cannot be divorced from life. With the 
Brandens, it certainly is not. Nathaniel is not joking 
when he says, "Very little other than sex or music has 
sufficient esthetic or emotional pull to draw us from 
work or work-related activities, such as discussing our 
respective careers and professional activities." 

The Brandens almost embody the old saying that 
true work is one with true leisure. 

And our friends the Blaisdells. They are extrava- 
gant. They are also altruistic. Paul recently requested 
a leave of absence from Johns Hopkins in order to 


work on a project dealing with the ecology of the 
Chesapeake Bay. Gail has two inner-city "little 
sisters." I was with her one day when we took them 
on a tour of downtown. They had never seen a 
fountain; they had never been in a store with an 
"alligator" (escalator); and they are always hungry. 
First on the agenda, on Gail's afternoons with them, 
is food. But they are hungry in other ways, too. And 
it is good that there is someone like Gail to help 

Helen and David Brown contribute freely to conser- 
vation causes. And under Helen's editorial direction 
Cosmopolitan has ruled that real fur is gauche and 
outre. And, in the early spring of 1969 (a full year 
before / learned the word "ecology") Cosmo ran a 
short fiction illustrating the devastating effects of 
sulfur dioxide in the air. 

Although Ann Berman might seem at first to be 
simply a hip-sophisticate boutique owner (she says, 
"I'd never own a car! They pollute!" and adds, "I 
take cabs instead," and you have to know her to be 
sure she's kidding), she and Bruce know what the 
political scene is, both locally and nationally. Not 
infrequently you'll see them at political benefits. 

Like Ann and Bruce, Wally and Marcia have ideas 
that they believe in and work for. The thought of 
more Marcias to work for all the "Mr. Simmses" in 
business and industry seems in itself sufficient reason 
for girls to devote themselves to the office instead of 
the house. 

Now, let's talk about Marcia's spending for a min- 
ute. I freely admit that spending nearly all your 
money on clothes seems a bit unjustifiable in this 
troubled world. But I would defend her doing so for 
two reasons. First, I see nothing wrong with self- 
indulgence if it doesn't have any negative social 
consequences for anybody else. (There are, by con- 
trast, brands of self-indulgence that are destructive. In 
case it hasn't come across, I think that indulging 
yourself with a large family is a destructive kind of 
self-indulgence. But the surface materialism of fashion, 
while it does nothing particularly good for the world, 


doesn't really hurt anybody, either.) Second, and of 
more importance: I think it's pretty obvious that 
Marcia's devotion to au courant clothing is just a 
phase. ("The day I decide that scrapping my Puccis 
will stop the war machine, out they go.") She has 
ideals, too, that will sustain her as a person long after 
she passes the fashion-plate stage. 

And I think that's true of most of us. If, in this 
book, most of the childless couples I've interviewed 
and told you about at length seem too materialistic, it 
may be because most of us are still relatively young; 
and our values are still emerging. And I think that, for 
us, and for many others without children, real values 
have a good chance of emerging. When most couples 
with children vaguely realize that materialism can be 
a dead end, that endlessly chic fashions and fine 
wines can get boring, they have no chance to look for 
something deeper. By that time, they are pulled into 
a new system of status-y materialism, this time based 
on the children. 

Before you criticize Marcia too harshly for self- 
indulgence, you have to remember that most wives 
with children spend all their money and energy 
within the family circle. The results, for now, are the 
same in that neither Marcia nor her counterpart with 
two kids is giving much in the way of money to the 
total community. But Marcia will eventually, and 
probably fairly soon; and that is the difference. She is 
building an involvement with the total community 
right now. 

I haven't found that to be invariably true of 
childless couples— but I've seen it often enough to 
consider it typical. I'm sorry to have to limit myself 
to such inexact phrases, but I did not set out to do a 
statistical study. 

There will be future studies on childless couples, 
I'm sure (once people realize something exists, it is 
studied; and there are going to be more and more of 
us in existence), and these studies will indicate that 
we are hedonistic, altruistic, optimistic, misanthropic, 
liberal, conservative, today -oriented, tomorrow-ori- 
ented, or whatever. And I think it will all be very 


interesting. I did not have the time, funds, or statisti- 
cal expertise, or I might have done a few massive 
studies myself! 

But for the time being I will just say that if one 
generalization can be made about childless couples 
with near-complete accuracy, it is this: we like life. 
That's almost inevitable. Because, if you are childless 
and you don't like your life, you can easily change 
whatever it is about your life that is not satisfying. 
(You can move from Toledo to New York or from 
New York to the Catskills. You can throw up your 
job and find something else entirely. If you are 
childless, you even have the ultimate freedom: to 
think it over and decide whether, or not, to have 
children. For couples who already have children, the 
choice is no longer there.) And, after you change 
your life, you like life again, see? 

And you are doing good for the world by not 
having children; you can take credit for that, even if 
you decide to remain childless purely for reasons of 
personal advantage. Personal advantages and the 
larger societal good do coincide, in this case. 

So stay free. At least consider the option of child- 
lessness. For the first time in history, the option is 
easily yours to take. And the rewards are almost 
limitless. Marital enrichment, personal independence, 
and the chance to live a creative, full, and free life are 
those I value most. 



It seems to me that things are a bit different in April 
of 1972 than they were a year ago— when the first 
edition of The Baby Trap was published. 

Another Earth Day has passed, with its hopefully- 
heard messages of environmental problems (caused 
and/or compounded by population growth). 

Thousands of Americans have read of an M.l.T. 
study which warns that Man cannot hope to survive if 
population stabilization, and numerous environ- 
mental reforms, are not effective by 1975. 

Awareness of our nation's population problem has 
reached the U. S. Senate— where a resolution calling 
for population stabilization by voluntary means has 
co-sponsors who range politically from Barry Gold- 
water to George McGovern. The same awareness has 
even begun to reach the high schools: the State of 
Delaware, for example, has decided that pregnancy 
testing is a realistic function of high school Student 
Health Services. (Certainly thus decision comes none 
too soon— not when 200,000 high school girls become 
pregnant each year; not when, in one major city, the 
first baby of 1972 was born out of wedlock to a 
sixteen-year-old girl.) 

The Baby Trap has been followed by a very impor- 
tant book written by two young psychologists, Anna 
and Arnold Silverman: The Case Against Having 
Children. And a book called Mothers Day Js Over 
(authored by a mother of two) is in process. Perhaps 
many are beginning to look realistically at the prob- 
lems posed by parenthood. 

There is no easy way to measure whether respect 
for child-free couples is increasing meaningfully. 


But— once in a while, now, when we tell new ac- 
quaintances we are not going to have children, we 
hear a response such as "How wonderful!" 

Problems still exist. 

Television, a major shaper of attitudes, still presents 
us with a 3-child family, a 5-child family, and a 
6-child family (all in prime evening time). Daytime 
soap operas still center around pregnancies, and com- 
mercials still manage to suggest that life with kids is 
paradise. Some ladies' magazines are worse. And, too 
often, the best-laid plans for sex-education courses 
degenerate from contraception to chromosomes— and 
nobody tells little fourteen and sixteen-year-old's that 
Cokes don't work as douches. The question, "Why 
don't you have children?" is still more socially ac- 
ceptable than the question "Why do you have a 

Can anything further be done to change attitudes in 
our applehood-and-mother pie culture? 


Many child-free couples and single persons who read 
The Baby Trap last year suggested an organization to 
support the rights and interests of non-parents. 

Parents have, in the past, formed many coalitions. 
We have the Leading Families of America (previously, 
Large Families of America); there are Parent-Teacher 
associations; divorced and widowed parents can join 
Parents Without Partners; and there is even a special 
organization for parents of twins (to name just a 

Many of these groups influence legislation and 
social standards and have impact on the lives of 
non-parents. "Why not a special group formed for th 
benefit of those who do not have children?" was th 
question of many. 

It seemed, to those who asked the question, that 
such an organization could serve several useful pur- 

1) An organization for non-parents could work to 
obtain fair economic treatment for child-free 
couples and single persons. Presently, those with- 

out children are taxed inequitably (to the tune 
of many thousands of dollars over a working 
lifetime); childless wives must pay for unneeded 
maternity benefits under most insurance plans; 
single secretaries and bachelors help pay bills for 
other peoples' children when they stay at 
"Family Plan" motels, travel with an airline that 
accommodates young children at no extra 
charge, or see the latest film at a theater which 
offers reduced rates for children. These are just a 
few examples; in many other ways, the child-free 
pay substantially— and inequitably— for the many 
services needed to provide for a growing popula- 

2) An organization for non-parents could protest 
media images of the childless which are unsuit- 
able, stereotyped, and inaccurate— in much the 
same way that other organizations have worked 
to change the image of minority groups and the 
images of women. 

3) Such an organization could emphasize to the 
general public the creative lifestyles of child-free 
couples and the great public service done by 
those who do not add to our burgeoning popula- 
tion and the consequent drain on our economic 
and environmental resources. 

4) Such an organization could cooperate with 
Planned Parenthood, Zero Population Growth, 
Coalition For A National Population Policy, and 
other groups now working towards our most 
vital national goal: a continually lowered birth 

5) The simple existence of such a group should 
prove mutually supportive to those who have 
chosen to be childless, providing us with a new 
sense of pride and undoubtedly influencing a 
society which, until now, has questioned and at 
times rejected those without children. The sim- 



pie existence of such a group could help to make 
"non-parenthood" not only a word, but an 

With these goals in mind, the NATIONAL ORGAN- 
IZATION FOR NON-PARENTS was formed in Janu- 
ary, 1972. The initial founders were: a midwestern 
financial executive (a single man), the author of this 
book and her husband (a childless couple), and a 
Washington psychiatrist (a father of two). 

Suzanne Keller of Princeton, who has advocated 
cash rewards for child-free wives to help stop "this 
endless army of maternity" joined the Honorary 
Board of Directors— as did Dr. Wayne Davis of the 
University of Kentucky, Edward Pohlman of the 
University of the Pacific, and several television and 
screen favorites, including Hugh Downs. 

In Palo Alto, Mrs. Shirley Radl, mother of two and 
former Executive Director of Zero Population 
Growth, cleared space in her home for two type- 
writers, one mimeograph machine, and six volun- 
teers—and offered her services as Executive Director. 

As word of N.O.N, spread, inquiries and some 
donations were received, even before membership 
procedures had been set up. The Executive Commit- 
tee began to plan publicity, formal fund-raising, an 
extensive membership drive, and the creation of two 
new national holidays: Non-Mother's Day, May 7 
and Non-Father's Day, June 11. 

Interestingly, about half of the original officers am 
board members of N.O.N, are parents. This is all to 
the good. We would, in fact, hope that many who are 
parents will be equally interested in seeing equitable 
treatment given to the 40 percent of our population 
which, at any given time, is not involved in the rear- 
ing of children. 

Perhaps this hope will be realized. 

Dr. Wayne Davis wrote, "I would be pleased to join 
N.O.N. , even though the unfair tax laws are of direct 
benefit to me, with my family of a wife and three 
children. I am opposed to the unjust treatment of the 
childless. I would rather pay my rightful share of 


taxes than to have our unmarried secretary pay more 
than her rightful share." 

We hope that other parents will share the feelings of 
Dr. Davis. 

Frankly, we hope that you who have read this 
book, whether you are a parent or a non-parent, will 
join us in seeking to secure the goals of N.O.N. 

Having read The Baby Trap, it would be easy to 
absorb its message and put it aside. It would be 
almost as easy to return the membership blank below, 
and make your involvement with the situation of the 
child-free a continuing experience. 

We welcome you warmly, should you join us. 

National Organization For Non-Parents 
220 Miramonte 
Palo Alto, California 94306 

I would like to join N.O.N, and be advised of your 
various activities and of others in my area who are 
also members. My annual membership fee of $10 is 


ELLEN PECK's experiences as a junior high school 
teacher led her to blow the cobwebs off boy-girl 
which in turn led to a widely-syndicated newspaper 
column continuing her hip, no-nonsense advice to 
girls on the bewildering road to maturity. Now, as her 
loyal followers approach adulthood, she takes a sharp 
and shocking look at the snare that society has set for 
them-THE BABY TRAP. Ellen Peck lives in Balti- 
more with her husband, who is a public relations 
man, and zero children. 



City & State 

Optional Information Parent 
Number of children, if any 

Zip Code 


JlJt [ 



Before you 
even think 
of having 
a baby, you 
must read 
this book.